Evan Garza, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art at the University of Texas at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art, has been named the new director of Rice Public Art. He will report to Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of the Moody Center for the Arts, and begin his position in December.
As director, Garza will oversee all activities relating to public art on Rice’s campus, including the current collection of artworks by world-renowned artists such as Michael Heizer and Jaume Plensa and the installation of temporary pop-up galleries at the BioScience Research Collaborative and other new works of campus art. He also will oversee management of and programming for the James Turrell “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace at Rice’s Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion.
The Rice Public Art program incorporates site-specific works into the campus landscape and interior spaces and aims to challenge and inspire the community to imagine its work and lives from unconventional and potentially transformative perspectives. The program works in collaboration with the Shepherd School of Music, the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts and student art organizations, among others, in an effort to broadly integrate its programming into the academic life at Rice.
“Art expands our capacity to perceive, explore and think creatively about the world,” Weaver said. “Rice Public Art seeks to generate encounters with art that advance the culture of inquiry that characterizes our university. Evan brings a creative curatorial vision, strong managerial skills and an ability to work well with a wide variety of collaborators and constituents.”
“There are incredible opportunities at Rice to build a world-class collection and public program,” Garza said. “I grew up in Houston and know how important Rice is within the larger landscape of the city. Growing up here, I had some of my most memorable art-viewing experiences at Rice Gallery. When I think about the power of large-scale sculpture and installation works, I am still reminded of a Jacob Hashimoto presentation of hundreds of silk kites suspended from the ceiling like a billowing cloud at Rice Gallery in 2005.”
Artworks experienced in public engage the viewer in a uniquely different way than a gallery setting, Garza said. “On a university campus, particularly in the case of Rice, that setting is a site of ideas, research, exchange and collaboration,” he said. “Public artworks offer the opportunity to contextualize those ideas and generate new conversations, while being physically accessible to the everyday viewer in a way that an object in a gallery cannot. This is even more exciting in a city like Houston, where people engage with public work throughout the city every day.”
Garza said he is looking forward to getting to know the artists and artworks in the Rice Public Art collection and connecting with the greater arts community in Houston. “I’m eager to connect and collaborate with colleagues and meet artists and patrons that make Houston an exciting city for public art,” he said.
At the Blanton Museum, Garza has been the managing curator of three groundbreaking exhibitions: “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties,” “Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s” and “Warhol by the Book,” the most comprehensive American survey of Andy Warhol’s relationship to books, artist books and authors, on view at the Blanton through Jan. 29.
Prior to his position at the Blanton, Garza ran exhibitions and programs for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 2011 to 2014. In 2011 he co-founded Fire Island Artist Residency in New York, the first LGBTQ artist residency in the United States, and served as co-director until 2014.
Garza earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of Houston.