Glassell School of the Arts in Houston has appointed Paul Coffey as its new director

Sculptor and educator Joseph Havel left Glassell School of the Arts later this month, helping to develop and manage the school for three decades. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts has announced its successor: Paul Coffey, vice vice rector of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will take over as director of Glassell.

Kofi arrives after a long stay in Chicago, but says he felt a connection to the Houston art scene even before he was offered the job.

“After studying art all my life, as an art student as a teenager, I learned about the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel,” he said. “I studied painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.”

Kofi said his wife took him to Houston for his 45th birthday as part of Rothko’s worship. “Houston has always felt like it was on the perimeter of my study of art history and cultural history,” he said. “But I knew these titans – Rothko was one, Cy Tuomble was another – I felt a strong connection in Houston. So I’m excited to spend time with them and the others. “

Gary Tinterow, director of MFAH, says the organization has interviewed very strong candidates for the post. “Paul’s experience and achievements as an art teacher and administrator were above all others in a group of extremely talented people in terms of his experience as an art teacher, as a creator of educational programs,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then.

“I think he’s putting new emphasis on Glassell and he needs to be given the opportunity to build on the great foundation that Joe Havel created.

Tinterow cites Glassell’s new 102,500-square-foot campus on the other side of MFAH’s Binz, a great endeavor that began shortly before the pandemic.

“We haven’t really had a chance to tidy up our house,” Tinterow said.

Kofi said he was excited about the opportunity and suggested that the transition from Chicago to Houston would be smooth.

Chicago, Houston share an outsider mentality

“Chicago always has a New York City mentality, and I like having that little chip on my shoulder,” he said. “For me, it’s about accepting a state of getting up. It’s about what the possibilities are. “

At the school of the Institute of Arts in Chicago, Kofi is trying to expand the scope of the institution. He hopes to take a similar approach in Houston.

“There are ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago,” he said. “I understand that Houston also has many different populations, and we want to use art – and continue to use art – as a means to reach the entire population of the city and think together about what art can be, what art can be. education. In that sense, I hope to reflect on what we did in Chicago. But I also don’t want to be too prescriptive. I want to take the time to understand Houston. What works in Chicago doesn’t have to work in Houston. “

Coffey expanded the fields of study at the School of the Institute of the Arts to include various programs in art criticism and the study of architecture. “We have made room for many different thoughts to coexist,” he said. “The idea was to create an environment where thinking about art history and making art could also coexist and sharpen each other.”

Glassell’s core program, in particular, feeds young artists such as Shahzia Sikander and Trenton Doyle Hancock.

Kofi says his former and current employers serve as rare museum training sites in the United States. He describes Havel’s study as “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

“The school has a rich history of the museum,” he said. “This is not a repetition. We are looking to add to the opportunities that exist now. “

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