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Creative risk

Consider the Museum of Fine Arts. The public really [doesn’t] want them to goof. They cost too much. They’re too big. They spend too much money for failure. It’s like having NASA fail: You don’t want failures of that magnitude. They don’t want to do a show and have the public say it’s a dog. They want to do shows the public [says]are great! Well, can you imagine where Dow Chemical would be without their laboratory? I mean—think about it—they have to have that lab. Lawndale was a lab. That’s basically what it was. There were some things being tested over there. There was also a very significant failure rate. You know, regardless of how much I appreciated something or liked doing everything we did over there, they didn’t all work. Some were bombs. I think you have to be able to do that. You have to have a place where you can take chances and run risks and if the test tube blows up, you simply say, “Shit. We learned.”

Art as curriculum

I think art should be one third of the curriculum in public schools. That’s a major statement, not a lightweight thing. I don’t say that offhand. Art, philosophy and science: That’s what we should be teaching. Art is the ugly stepchild to universities. We just are. And the reason that music is elevated is that they have their symphony hall. The reason that theater can be successful is they have their [venue]. Is it a good one? Damn right it’s a good one. Architecture, hey, they go and get Philip Johnson to build them a grandiose thing. Artists at one time had some kind of place. There was a place for them in the community and in society—and I don’t necessarily know where or what that is anymore. When the University did not embrace Lawndale to the point that they kept it and used it and developed it, I thought that was a tragic mistake. On their part, as far as I’m concerned, they goofed. That’s a big goof.

The road not taken is as important as the road taken. The reality is that Lawndale ultimately got kind of shoved to the streets. The students were the lifeblood. The Art Guys

The Art Guys, Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing, are a Houston-based collaborative team employing unconventional media and humor to explore serious contemporary issues. The duo has worked together since 1983 after meeting as students at the University of Houston.
came through that venue. Sharon Kopriva
Sharon Kopriva, b. 1948. A Houston Heights-born sculptor educated at the University of Houston (BS in Art Education, 1970; MFA in painting, 1981), Kopriva taught in Houston-area high schools for ten years prior to a full-time career in visual arts.
came through that venue. The person who’s teaching sculpture there now came through that venue. They got to make the leap. It’s like being shot out of a rocket, you know. Students don’t [typically] get to do that. They graduate, they get their MFA, they go do this or that; the first thing you know this life’s a drag and they end up being a banker or something. I don’t think universities help them in that professional transition. They’re not prepared to do that, and Lawndale did. Lawndale put those students in traffic. An enormous amount of traffic flowed right through their living room. They got to give the parties; they got to host events. They also got to work on them, which presented some problems for some of the other faculty because students would leave a class to come over and work on something. There were a few scrapes, but to tell you the truth, in the scope of things they were so minor. Lawndale was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I loved being there. I loved being involved. I loved doing what I did.

Then and now

[My wife] Charmaine and I came to Houston together in 1976 in a red Ford one-ton truck with two pink suitcases. I’d taught [previously]at SMU for seven years. We stayed at John and Wanda Alexander’s

John Alexander, b. 1945. Abstract artist and Beaumont, Texas, native who served as Assistant Professor of Art at University of Houston in the early 1970s.
place for about a month; I’m sure it seemed like six years to him. We became the thing that wouldn’t leave…those kind of permanent houseguests.

James Harithas

James Harithas: former Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, director; Corcoran director; Hunter College instructor; Syracuse Museum curator; and co-founder, with wife Ann Harithas, of the Art Car Museum and the Station Museum in Houston.
was my entrée into Houston. Jim Harithas is the one person I’ve ever met in my whole life who worked for a museum, and particularly a director, on any level. [He] walked into my studio in Dallas, looked and looked and said, “I really like this stuff. You want to do a show? Here’s the date.” In a sense, that had a whole lot to do with supporting art.

You can live as far out on the edge as you want to go, but it’s not really necessarily fair to take your family out on the edge with you. You can’t take your kids out there and turn them loose because now all of a sudden two worlds have to survive side-by-side, simultaneously. They have to coexist. I spent a lot of money [at Lawndale]. I didn’t go around telling people that, or complaining. I did it because I wanted to do it. I liked doing it. I thought it was important…to me and to the community. I think one of the things that made [Lawndale]successful back then was the fact that artists took responsibility for their own actions. They were willing to do things. They were willing to take responsibility for their own actions, and suffer the consequences. That’s what responsibility means.

As best I can tell, [today] there may be a bit more “laying in wait.” Kind of saying, “I can’t do this because…” or “I can’t do that because….” There are too many reasons why they can’t do something—and mostly they’re self-imposed. You’re not really supposed to consider what’s out there in terms of what you can and cannot do. You just do it and let the chips fall. If they do, you may get hurt. There’s a possibility you might get wounded—that’s what entrepreneurialism is, to tell you the truth. And guys who can—I mean, Texas, for goodness sake! Is this the wildcat state or what? Are we risk takers, or what? Are we willing to go out on a limb? There have been more rises and falls and busts in this state than probably anywhere in the world, and some guys do itand come back and do it two, or three or four more times. That’s not happening [in the visual arts] now—but it did.

James Surls was interviewed on August 29, 1997. You can listen to the interview here .

Questions & Answers

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Eke Reply
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Missy Reply
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Lale Reply
no can't
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
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Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
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Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
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yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
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what is a peer
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scanning tunneling microscope
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Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
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what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
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The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
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Source:  OpenStax, Houston reflections: art in the city, 1950s, 60s and 70s. OpenStax CNX. May 06, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10526/1.2
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