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Blaffer Art Museum Builds Bridges Through Interdisciplinary Programs

The museum serves as an arts conduit in the UH community.

In February, a jazz trio fitted with skullcaps played before a live audience as University of Houston engineering students recorded the musicians’ brainwaves. This month, Matthew Ritchie, a visual artist known for translating complex three-dimensional theories into two dimensions, discussed his work at the UH College of Architecture and, on March 20, University of Washington professor Scott Magelssen will present a talk on the visualization and aesthetic creation of the astronaut. This is just a small sampling of the recent and upcoming cross-sector projects presented by the Blaffer Art Museum.

A Houston arts fixture, the Blaffer Art Museum is known for engaging the community with emerging and impactful contemporary art. Blaffer’s Deputy Director James Rosengren said he hopes that, through these special projects, the museum can provide the mechanism for inter-college collaboration, using art as a bridge to connect the UH community to the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts.

“We have the freedom to operate as a conduit to draw people to the college,” he said.  

Since 2010, the Blaffer Art Museum has championed numerous projects—both large and small—that encourage dialogue between students, faculty, administrators and industry representatives from surprisingly varied backgrounds. Past projects include a lecture series investigating art crimes with the UH Law Center, College of Liberal Arts and Honors College; lectures by leading medical experts including a retina surgeon exploring the evolution of artists’ styles due to changes in the eye and a top dermatologist speaking about the art of observation; an expansive series of events presented in conjunction with Blaffer’s “Janet Biggs: Echo of the Unknown” exhibition about the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on memory and cognition, and more. Blaffer also co-hosts the Brain on Art conference, an international symposium on neuroscience, art, creativity and innovation that brings together thought-leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the arts. Blaffer’s partners range from the Cullen College of Engineering to the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

The partnerships generated by Blaffer prepare UH students to work across subject areas by expanding their horizons and helping them “connect the dots” between fields of study. “Ultimately, the problems in the world today won’t be solved by single individuals, but by wildly cross-disciplinary teams,” said Rosengren. “It all comes back to the students. As a museum, we have this wonderful opportunity to help them see how different disciplines can connect through art.”