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The university’s more than 700-piece collection, which began in 1969, includes several paintings by Texas-born Dorothy Hood and innovative works by Carlos Cruz-Diez.

HOUSTON — Even during the summer months, the University of Houston’s main campus is buzzing with activity. Students and staff walk the trails through tree-lined courtyards, sometimes not even recognizing the public art they pass through.

“It’s accessible to everyone and there are no barriers. It’s about having encounters with art wherever you are,” says Maria Gaztambide, executive director and chief curator of Public Art University. of Houston System.

The newest installation is near the Moores Opera House, adding to what began in 1969 when UH became the first state agency to own a public art collection.

Some rooms blend into the architecture. Others were meant to stand out.

“The focus has always been on international modern and contemporary art,” says Gaztambide.

You can scroll through the full permanent collection on the UHS Public Art website and even view each piece individually.

“I think it’s a very unique opportunity and experience,” says Gaztambide.

Although the artwork can be viewed digitally, it encourages people to come see it in person, especially that of Carlos Cruz-Diez. Double Physichromy.

“People come from all over the world to come and see it,” says Gaztambide. “It’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite pieces.”

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The university also has several paintings by Texas-born Dorothy Hood in its collection of more than 700 pieces, including angel’s keywhich is on display in the box office lobby of the Wortham Theatre.

“Dorothy Hood is an artist who barely gains national recognition even though she has distinguished herself in her life,” says Gaztambide. “She was born in 1912, so she was really at the forefront of American modernism.”

Commissioned pieces, such as those by Jim Sanborn A comma, aare an important part of Public Art UHS works

“He was truly inspired by the diversity of our student body, faculty and staff,” Gaztambide said. “He wanted to incorporate that, incorporate that into his work.”

The result is a bronze and copper sculpture that includes excerpts from poems, novels and prose in Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and more.

“By day, it’s just a normal sculpture,” explains Gaztambide. “What’s really magical about this room is at night, it’s lit, so it’s one with the facade of the MD Anderson Library.”

Sarah Braman, known for her works that appropriate ready-made materials and objects, is the artist behind here. The concrete drainage pipe is equipped with colored glass.

“The idea is that you walk around it and slow down and enjoy the here and now,” says Gaztambide.

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While you walk hereyou are supposed to cross negative spacea series of 13 flags designed by Nigerian Odili artist Donald Odita.

According to the Public Art UHS website, he “chose to engage in color theory to carefully examine the immigration crisis, the separation of migrant families, and the current state of naturalization in the United States” .

“While walking through it, you are involved in what is happening on the border, whether you know it or not, whether you know this larger story or not,” says Gaztambide. “The idea he wants to convey through this is that there is also beauty in diversity and unity in difference.”

Another unique piece: that of the Texan Luis Jiménez Party Jarabeis made of painted fiberglass.

“He was the first artist to use fiberglass for art,” says Gaztambide, explaining that his father was a sign maker and learned how to use common materials for art. “If you look at it closely, there are these brushstroke-like patterns in the room.”

Jiménez, who died in 2006, holds a special place in the university’s artistic community. Until his death, he taught at UH every spring semester.

“All of these artists have really interesting stories,” says Gaztambide.

You can learn more about these stories with a trip to the University of Houston.

“There is never a charge to discover our collection,” says Gaztambide. “You just jump on it, park and you’re there!”

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Do you have a hidden gem we should check out? Let us know by emailing Brandi Smith at bsmith@khou.com!

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