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UHD’s O’Kane Gallery Continues Virtual Speaker Series with Alison Weaver Nov. 11


By Mike Emery

Since its installation at Rice University in 2012, James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany, Skyspace has attracted countless numbers of Houstonians and tourists to view its light shows at dawn and dusk. The piece has quickly emerged as a high point for the city’s arts landscape and continues to draw audiences to its unique, illuminated view of the sky.

The popular installation will be among the topics addressed during the University of Houston-Downtown O’Kane Gallery’s next edition of its Virtual Speaker Series featuring Alison Weaver, Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts.

This event will be conducted through Zoom at 5 p.m., Nov. 11. Attendees are encouraged to register in advance of this event (using the password UHDArt1). A Q&A session will follow Weaver’s conversation with Mark Cervenka, Director of UHD’s O’Kane Gallery.

During this discussion, Weaver will display images of Twilight Epiphany, Skyspace and will share her insights on how this work engages audiences at sunrise and sunset. Additionally, her conversation will focus on the process of commissioning this ambitious installation from Turrell.

“Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany, Skyspace, at Rice is one in a series of Skyspaces he created, including one at the Live Oak Friends Meeting House here in Houston,” said Dr. Susan Baker, Professor of Art History. “These ‘spaces’ are meant to be seen at certain times of day and rely on the movement of the sun to create different colors and spatial effects.”

The upcoming virtual discussion, Baker said, will address the many logistics and factors involved with a public art installation such as Turrell’s work.

“Weaver also will discuss the challenges of educating the public to the significance and meaning of a work like Turrell’s,” Baker added. “She will also show some preliminary drawings that give insight into the artist’s creative process and artistic interests when he was planning Twilight Epiphany, Skyspace.”

Prior to joining Rice’s Moody Center for the Arts, Weaver served as the director of affiliates for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. A Houston native, Weaver has long had an affinity for the arts. That passion intensified while attending college at Princeton University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She would later earn her MBA from the Yale School of Management; a Master of Arts from Williams College; and a Ph.D. from City University of New York.

“My interest in art began while growing up in Houston wandering through the Menil (Collection) and marveling at its extraordinary collection, and was further developed as an undergraduate at Princeton,” said Weaver upon returning to Houston in 2015. “While taking a class on early Chinese art, I had the opportunity to physically handle a Shang bronze ritual vessel in the collection of the university museum. It was a transformative experience that led to a lifelong interest in the power of art, and ultimately to a career as an art historian and arts administrator.”

This will be the O’Kane Gallery’s third edition of its Virtual Speaker Series. Previous participants included artists Michael Menchaca and Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak. The series was conceived as a way for the Gallery to continue to explore contemporary art and connect with audiences during the pandemic.

“We wanted to continue to offer visual arts to UHD students, faculty and staff, as well as the Houston community during these strange times, and perhaps offer a moment of respite and contemplation,” Baker said. “Virtual webinars seemed to be the answer. These webinars help the Gallery to maintain a presence in the community. Our goal is to continue these events in the spring and focus on student art.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.