Rice University: The Moody celebrates 5 years of creative exploration through the arts at Rice

Rice’s Moody Center for the Arts will celebrate its 5th anniversary March 5 from 8-10 p.m. with a birthday bash featuring a free outdoor performance by Sir Woman plus complimentary cocktails and craft beer.

Guests are also invited to visit the Moody’s current exhibition, “Soundwaves: Experimental Strategies in Art + Music,” curated by Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth executive director. Running through May 14, it’s already been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Houston Chronicle.

In the half-decade since the Moody opened, it’s drawn attention for its timely and topical exhibitions. Fittingly for a campus arts center, their crossdisciplinary work also encourages student and faculty interaction; witness, for instance, the “Radical Revisionists: Contemporary African Artists Confronting Past and Present” exhibition timed to coincide with the establishment of Rice’s Center for African and African American Studies in 2019.

In some cases, the Moody’s exhibitions have featured faculty work — Lisa Lapinski’s “Pile the Wood High!” in 2018, Natasha Bowdoin’s “Sideways to the Sun” in 2019 — and in others, the Moody has recruited an array of contemporary artists spanning countries, cultures and practices whose work supports their mission of fostering interdisciplinary conversation through the arts. The Moody does not house a permanent collection, which allows it the flexibility of mounting enticingly new exhibitions three times a year.

“Every project is an opportunity to form new partnerships and to build bridges with diverse academic departments,” Weaver said. One of the long-term goals of the Moody, she said, is to help embed artists, creators, makers and other “outside voices” into research and scholarship that’s already taking place on campus.

“If there’s something we can add to the conversation through a project, program, exhibition or visiting artist, then we’re expanding the culture in innovative ways,” Weaver said. “The arts have always been important here — the 1912 Rice seal says ‘Arts, Science, Letters — so we’re doing our part to elevate the arts and make them accessible for as many people as possible, both on and off campus.”

In the past five years, the Moody has also added over 25 new works to campus through the Rice Public Art program.

Many are by female artists, who were previously underrepresented, and several works have already established themselves as icons — take Pae White’s glittering three-dimensional sculpture “Triple Virgo” suspended in McNair Hall’s rotunda at the Jones Graduate School of Business.

And what could have been plain white tents erected at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic were reimagined by the Moody as large-scale canvases that have featured a rotating line-up of local artists and Rice faculty, including Karin Broker and Allison Hunter.

Each new piece, Weaver said, further cements Rice’s reputation as an arts destination. James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” Skyspace at the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this spring with events of its own, is the artist’s most-visited piece and a perennially popular destination for anyone visiting Houston.

Soon, the giant Sarofim Hall for student arts will occupy the space next door to the Moody, completing an arts corridor that also includes the Glasscock School for Continuing Studies, Brockman Hall for Opera and Shepherd School of Music, which opens onto the plaza that houses the Skyspace.

Between this coalescence and the still-growing portfolio of public art (coming next: a large-scale wall painting in the Shepherd School by Odili Donald Odita) it’s an exciting time for the arts on campus, Weaver said, and five years is a “meaningful milestone to celebrate.”

“Of course, there’s a lot more ahead,” she said. “We’re looking to the future and how we can build on these successes.”

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