Blaffer Art Museum: The Complete Guide

second floor of a gallery space with a gray staircase

Courtesy of Blaffer Art Museum 

Founded in 1973, the Blaffer Art Museum is located on the central campus of the University of Houston. Since its inception, this vibrant, unique museum has presented well over 250 contemporary art exhibitions from regional and internationally-known artists, as well as UH students, to promote an appreciation for the visual arts and contemporary culture. Admission is free for both UH students and the general public.

History

The Blaffer Art Museum was named in honor of the late Sarah Campell Blaffer, who was a respected Houston art collector and philanthropist, and a contributor to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Blaffer inherited two oil fortunes (from her husband’s investments in Humble Oil and her father’s investments in Texaco), and in 1964, she created the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, which seeks to make artworks more accessible to smaller, rural communities.

When the Fine Arts Center at the University of Houston was built, Blaffer dedicated several major works of art in her collection to the university—and on March 13, 1973, Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston was born. The museum displays works from artists like Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, Franz Kline, Frida Kahlo, and Willem de Kooning alongside art made by students and faculty of the university.

In 1979, after a successful touring exhibition, the Blaffer Foundation reacquired Sarah Blaffer's collection (which is now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) allowing the museum to focus on temporary exhibitions highlighting a diverse slate of artists and mediums instead of maintaining a permanent collection.

The museum changed its name to Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston in June of 2010 and in October 2012, the museum moved to a brand new building with an exhibition of Tony Feher's work.

Special Programs and Exhibitions

The Blaffer is always showcasing exciting art that spans disciplines, from dance to painting to neurosciences—to date, the museum has presented over 250 exhibitions, most of which have special ties to Houston. In fact, because of the museum's historical commitment to regional artists, the Blaffer presents one exhibition per year that focuses on or includes strong representation from Texas artists. Past local artists who have shown their work here include James Surls, Margo Sawyer, and Tierney Malone.

The museum also frequently holds summer art workshops and classes for children, with lessons in batik, clay, collage, watercolor, photography, and more. To stay up to date on upcoming events and exhibitions, check the Events Calendar for more information.  

Guided Tours

A docent-led guided tour is an excellent way to get an in-depth look at the Blaffer. Tours are free for community groups and student groups of at least 10 people, though they are currently on pause. If your group has a particular interest or curricular requirements, the tour can be customized and sometimes includes an art workshop.

How to Get There

Located on the University of Houston Campus, the Blaffer is easily accessible from I-45. If you’re heading south: To get there from the highway, take the exit Cullen (44C), turn right on Cullen Boulevard, and then turn left on Elgin Street. If you’re heading north:  

Take the exit Elgin, Lockwood, Cullen (44A), and then turn left on Cullen. Conveniently, the Blaffer is also just a 10- to 15-minute drive from the Museum District and downtown. 

Parking is easy (and free!): You can either take the first possible right into UH Lot 16, or turn right onto Entrance 18 Street and make two consecutive right turns into Lot 16B. The Blaffer is located right across the street from the parking lot, right between Wilhelmina Grove and the College of Architecture. 

And, if you can’t find parking in either lot, there are several metered parking spots nearby. (As the museum website states, “You’re most likely to need to use a metered space during one of our daytime public programs.”)

Tips for Visitors

  • Wear proper attire. Proper attire? For an art museum? That’s right—make your visit to the Blaffer more enjoyable by wearing comfortable walking shoes. 
  • Leave the phone (or camera) in your pocket. Flash photography and professional photography is a no-go, and anyway, it’s always more fun to experience the art without taking photos.
  • Book a tour. If you really want to get the most out of the Blaffer’s exciting exhibitions, a customized guided tour can be a wonderful way to soak up this special museum.
  • Check for events ahead of time. Before you go, be sure to check the calendar for the current list of events so you know what you can’t miss. The annual schedule of events, exhibitions, and special programming changes often, and the Blaffer exhibits six to eight shows per year with works by local, national, and international artists (as well as students), so you may want to plan your visit around one of these.   
  • Have an open mind. Maybe this sounds a little cheesy, but it’s true: It’s always best to visit any art museum with an open mind—and this is especially true of a museum like the Blaffer, whose exhibitions tend towards the experiential and cutting-edge. You’ll enjoy your museum-going experience all the more if you can remain open to what you’re seeing.
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