Alvia Wardlaw, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, African American Art Curators, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

A Pioneering African-American Art Force Changes Houston and Museums Everywhere: Why Isn’t She Better Known?

A PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ART FORCE CHANGES HOUSTON AND MUSEUMS EVERYWHERE: WHY ISN’T SHE BETTER KNOW?

BY   Damola Durosomo  |  PHOTOGRAPHY   max Burkhalter  | PUB   Paper City 

Alvia Wardlaw, a Wellesley grad and UT’s First African-American Phd In Art History, and is Director of the University Museum at TSU. Why is she still one of America’s most under-known Curators?


She’s the curator who launched the Gee’s Bend quilters phenomenon after organizing an exhibition for an obscure group of women in a small Alabama byway; it became one of the most talked-about museum shows of 2002 in America and beyond.

In a career that spans five decades, including nearly 40 years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Dr. Alvia Wardlaw has presented exhibitions rewriting the canon of American art with major, overdue chapters for African-American artists, especially John Biggers, Thornton Dial and Kermit Oliver.

As director of the University Museum at Texas Southern University since 2000, this former Fulbright Fellow continues the legacy begun by the late Dr. Biggers. Catherine D. Anspon gets the scoop first hand from the Third Ward-reared Wellesley grad who earned the University of Texas’ first PhD in art history ever granted to an African-American — and unravels the role played by Dominique de Menil in Wardlaw’s journey.



Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
HOUSTON MUSEUM DISTRICT, HOUSTON
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), located in the Houston Museum District, Houston, is one of the largest museums in the United States. The permanent collection of the museum spans more than 6,000 years of history with approximately 64,000 works from six continents.

The museum benefits the Houston community through programs, publications and media presentations. Each year, 1.25 million people benefit from museum’s programs, workshops and resource centers. Of that total, more than 500,000 people participate in the community outreach programs.

The MFAH’s permanent collection totals 63,718 pieces in 270,000 square feet (25,000 m2) of exhibition space, placing it among the larger art museums in the United States. The museum’s collections and programs are housed in seven facilities. The main buildings (Law and Beck) have 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of exhibition space.

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