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As Harvey Hits Texas, Art Museums Shutter

A satellite view of Harvey as it neared Texas on Thursday.

COURTESY NASA

This post is being continuously updated with details about Harvey’s effects on Texas’s art community.

Last Friday morning, as Hurricane Harvey approached the Gulf Coast of Texas, museums in the region closed, saying they would keep their doors closed for the weekend. Harvey, which hit the state as a Category 4 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm but has battered the area since, with rain falling in unprecedented volumes and rampant flooding as a result. The crisis is expected to continue for a long time to come in small towns throughout Texas and in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States.

Among the institutions that closed early or completely before the arrival of the storm were the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Galveston Arts Center, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont, and the Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, which is near where Harvey made landfall on Friday evening.

A bit farther back from the coast, other institutions closed for the weekend included the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, the Contemporary Austin, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. The Houston Press compiled a list of arts events that were canceled or postponed.

Updates:

– Sunday, August 27, 4 p.m.: A spokesperson for the Menil Collection told ARTnews this afternoon that museum officials have been monitoring the situation closely. “We have done preventative sandbagging at buildings that require it,” the spokesperson said by email. “At this time, and thankfully, our buildings have not been impacted by the storm. Our director, conservation, and registration departments, which includes art handling services, are receiving regular updates about building status.” The museum is closed to staff on Monday. It is always closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Monday, August 28, 12:15 a.m.: The Galveston Arts Center, which rescheduled openings for its latest exhibitions from Saturday to September 9, was “doing very well under the current circumstances,” its curator, Dennis Nance, said in an email Sunday afternoon. When Hurricane Ike hit Galveston Island in 2008, the building GAC calls home on Strand Street suffered damage in excess of $1 million, and artwork totaling more than $100,000 was lost. The institution returned to the building in 2015. “Based on the organization’s experience with Ike, we’ve made necessary preparations to secure all artwork and the building,” Nance said. “We’ve deinstalled and secured all work in our second-floor vault and galleries. As of today, the building has not taken on flood water or lost power. There was minimal flooding of the streets on and around the Strand.”

Monday, August 28, 12:35 p.m.: The Rockport Center for the Arts, which is located near Corpus Christi, south of Houston, has suffered damage, according to its executive director, Luis Purón. “From images I have been provided and third party accounts, it appears the building has sustained serious external damage,” Purón said in a post on Facebook. “One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised. It is entirely possible that additional damage to the roof exists, yet only an onsite inspection will reveal that.” The director added later in the post, “It remains unclear if all the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden collection survived the 130 miles-per-hour winds of Harvey’s Category 4 direct impact to Rockport. We won’t know about internal damage until we are able to re-enter and inspect the building. The timeline for that is uncertain.” Purón said the museum was boarded on Thursday and “the time to prepare for this evacuation was minimal, as information regarding the strength of the storm changed.” All of the institution’s staff members are safe.

Monday, August 28, 2 p.m.: A spokesperson for the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston said in an email that “thanks to the advance preparations of our Hurricane Planning Group—from sandbagging and floodgates to emergency pumps—the storm’s impact has been greatly mitigated so far. Our on-site staff are all safe, and our collections have not had any damage. We had some isolated leaks on the main campus.” At the Bayou Bend Gardens, which are part of the MFAH and located a few miles away, “outbuildings and basement were flooded but that water has receded,” the spokesperson added. “The house and its collections remain secure.”

Monday, August 28, 2:10 p.m.: The situation at the Menil Collection remains the same after a tense night in the city surrounding it. “No impact on our buildings,” a spokesperson wrote. “Our 24/7 maintenance and security monitoring continues. At this time, the museum and its administrative offices will remain closed to the public and staff through Wednesday, August 30. We will continue to monitor closely and update regarding closures as needed.”

Monday, August 28, 3:55 p.m.: Bad fortune has so far spared the campus of Rice University, which plays home to the new Moody Center for the Arts as well as large outdoor artworks by James Turrell and Michael Heizer. “We are deeply concerned for our fellow Houstonians, but are meanwhile fortunate that the Moody is faring well,” a spokesperson for the center wrote. “Our building was constructed to withstand storms, and its location on campus is elevated to prevent flooding. We have no immediate information on the Turrell and Heizer installations but hope to get word about them before long.”

Monday, August 28, 4:30 p.m.: Project Row Houses, a community-based nonprofit in Houston’s Third Ward, has been largely unaffected by the storm. “In the Third Ward, we have no standing water because we don’t have any bayous near us to overflow into our neighborhood,” Rick Lowe, the founding director of the organization, wrote. “Plus, Highway 288 dips in our area and acts as the reservoir for us, and it is holding steady only half full. I’ve spent most of the day driving between Third Ward, Fifth Ward, and Montrose buying and delivering groceries to those who can’t get out.”

Tuesday, August 29, 1:10 p.m.: The Menil Collection was not affected by a deluge of rain that continued last night and into the day. “[Director] Rebecca Rabinow reported that the buildings are in great shape following her morning walk through,” a spokesperson said. “We are so grateful for that news and for our security and maintenance staff who will continue monitoring. No decisions yet about reopening. We are checking in with our staff to get updates about the storm’s impact on them. We hope that all are safe and sound.”

Tuesday, August 29, 1:45 p.m.: Like many institutions throughout the Houston area and the surrounding region today, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston are closed because of the storm. A spokesperson for CAMH shared a statement with press that read in part, “Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by Harvey and our fellow Houstonians during the ongoing storm. We are thankful to our crew who prepared CAMH for the storm and who continue to monitor the museum. We will keep you updated with closures and changes to programming via social media.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2:30 p.m.: In a statement issued on August 29, the National Endowment for the Arts said it would work with arts institutions to help them rebuild. “We are coordinating with the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Division of the Arts in the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to assess the situation and those arts organizations hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey,” the NEA’s chairman, Jane Chu, said in a statement. “As the current situation stabilizes, the National Endowment for the Arts is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”

Wednesday, August 30, 2:10 p.m.: Numerous Houston-area arts institutions remained closed today as officials worked to ascertain the extent of the damage throughout the region. Glasstire, a blog about the arts in Texas, has created a list of emergency resources for artists.

Wednesday, August 30, 4:05 p.m.: The National Endowment for the Humanities announced plans to grant $1 million to libraries, arts institutions, and colleges and universities affected by the hurricane. Texas and Louisiana’s state humanities councils will receive $250,000, and the Texas Cultural Emergency Response Alliance and the Heritage Emergency National Task Force will also get money from the NEH as they continue to assess damage resulting from the storm. Cultural institutions in FEMA-designated disaster areas can also apply for emergency grants for up to $30,000.

Wednesday, August 30, 4:15 p.m.: The Menil Collection will reopen to employees who are able to travel on Thursday and then to the public for the resumption of its regular hours on Friday at 11 a.m.

Andy Battaglia, Alex Greenberger, and Andrew Russeth contributed reporting.

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