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Art Gallery Opening Reinforces Commitment to Arts

What if there was a place offering Houstonians the possibility of seeing masterpieces before the artist has been discovered by those all-powerful critics? There is. The new University of St. Thomas Art Gallery is in the heart of Houston’s Museum District.  Its opening exhibition at 3907 Yoakum Blvd. from April 26 to May 3 was a dual celebration, honoring a special academic accomplishment.

Featured was the intriguing, boldly colorful oil paintings of Krista Karbalai who graduated in May 2013 as the University’s first student to earn a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Fine Arts (BA/BFA) in studio arts. The advanced degree is offered in partnership with the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In addition to liberal arts coursework, the program includes a year of intense studio experience to prepare artists to write clearly, think critically and develop a deeper understanding of their studio practice.

“Earning a BFA is a demanding undertaking, requiring much additional work,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Dominic Aquila said. “We are using the opening of our art gallery to celebrate Krista as the first to complete that program.”

The space is a wonderfully intimate environment for showcasing art. Originally a small chapel where UST Mass was held, and designed with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto an exquisite garden, the building has been used for miscellaneous purposes over the years, including a Little Archeology Gallery. It was Aquila’s idea to recapture the space and dedicate it to the visual arts.

Not only will the new gallery showcase work by students in the Studio Arts program, Aquila anticipates a fall show highlighting work from students in the BA program, plus that of their teachers from the Glassell.

“Once we energize that space with exhibitions at least twice a year, along with intimate travelling exhibits, we will officially serve as yet another point of light in the brilliant crown that is Houston’s Museum District,” Aquila said.

The gallery strengthens an existing campus connection to art. St. Thomas is an architectural destination thanks to the works of Philip Johnson, who left his renowned fingerprint. Through the philanthropy of the Dominique de Menil family, Johnson built the academic mall, the stunning Chapel of St. Basil and the landmark monolithic slab with cross known as the White Memorial at the West Alabama Street entrance of campus.  

“With the University of St. Thomas Art Gallery, we are re-staking our claim as a place that is committed to the value of the arts in the everyday lives of Houstonians and cultivating that love in our students,” Aquila said.

The new art space is expected to contribute to the cosmopolitan flavor of the inner city area.