Houston Community News >> Lora Jean Kilroy Education Center to Break Ground

5/10/2008 Houston— The role of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens as a major educational resource for the greater Southwest was furthered today when dignitaries from the city of Houston, the National Council on the Humanities, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens convened to break ground for the Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center adjacent to the Bayou Bend estate in River Oaks. In a surprise announcement at the end of the event, MFAH Director Peter C. Marzio said the museum had acquired the property adjacent to the project site, which will double the space available for the project. The Kilroy Visitor and Education Center, to be located at the corner of Memorial Drive and Westcott, within walking distance of the house museum, realizes the vision of Texas collector and philanthropist Miss Ima Hogg, who generously gave her home, Bayou Bend, and collection of American decorative arts and painting, to the MFAH some 50 years ago.

The Bayou Bend Collection showcases the American decorative-arts collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and is among the most distinguished collections of its kind in the United States. In its field, Bayou Bend stands alongside the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Winterthur Museum & Country Estate; and Colonial Williamsburg for the scope and importance of its holdings.

The building, designed by Houston architect Leslie K. Elkins, AIA, with landscape architects McDugald-Steele, carries out the desire that Miss Hogg expressed in 1969, when she purchased the land for an education center to provide orientation and context for visitors to the historic house museum. Now, the combination of her vision with broad support from the community will make possible a visitor and education center that will enrich and expand Bayou Bend’s public programs and outreach to the Houston community and beyond. In addition to the building, the $25 million campaign includes funds for endowment, property, and special projects.

MFAH Life Trustee Lora Jean Kilroy; MFAH Chairman Cornelia Long; Bayou Bend Trustees Carolyn Frost Keenan, Pam Ott and Nancy Abendshein; MFAH Director Peter C. Marzio; Bonnie Campbell, director of Bayou Bend; and Leslie K. Elkins, architect; among others, were on hand to break ground at the site. A crowd including Bayou Bend and MFAH trustees, donors, docents, children from Bayou Bend’s annual summer history camp, and invited guests assembled for the groundbreaking ceremony for the 25,000-square-foot center. Houston’s Mayor Bill White and Robert Martin, a member of the National Council on the Humanities, made remarks at the event. Martin stressed the importance of providing a place to study America’s past; White saluted the citizens who contributed to the project and Bayou Bend’s role as one of the city’s special attractions.

Upon its expected opening in late 2010, the Visitor and Education Center will offer the Houston community and the greater Southwest area a major new resource dedicated to broadening the understanding of America’s heritage, art, culture, and history through the Bayou Bend Collection; furthering the appreciation of Houston’s native environment through the property’s gardens and woodlands; and providing a fuller appreciation of the remarkable Hogg family legacy. Since opening to the public in 1966, Bayou Bend’s annual attendance has increased to over 50,000, and the variety and number of public programs has grown to several hundred programs and tours per year, attracting visitors from a wide regional area as well as from throughout the United States and beyond. Currently, the free Family Days attract as many as 1,500 children and adults each month, and American history tours and demonstrations for school children throughout the school year reach thousands of children from various school districts in the greater Houston Area. Programming includes Twilight Tours, Azalea Trail, Yuletide, Fourth of July celebrations, scholarly lectures, and a biennial symposium on Texas material culture, in addition to docent-led, self-guided, and audio tours of the house and its gardens.

The two-story Kilroy Visitor and Education Center will contain much-needed public and administrative support space for visitors and museum staff. Currently, Bayou Bend staff, resources, and programs are spread throughout the greater museum campus. The construction of the center will permit all programming and research to take place within walking distance of the house museum and its grounds. The center’s features include:

• an admission and information lobby to welcome visitors;
• an orientation gallery to acquaint the public with Bayou Bend;
• a research library and study center for scholars;
• a room dedicated to the Hogg Family;
• a gift shop;
• areas for public programs, special events, and schoolchildren;
• and administrative offices.

Public parking for the house museum will be expanded to include a covered street-level lot allowing for 40 vehicles. A special entrance for school buses will permit secure drop-off and pick-up of schoolchildren.

Leslie K. Elkins, AIA, is the design architect; Larry Burns of Kendall/Heaton Associates, Inc. is the production architect; and McDugald-Steele is the landscape architect.

The Bayou Bend Collection documents American decorative arts and painting from the early seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries, and is displayed in 20 room settings that trace the evolution of style in America. Special presentations dedicated to Texas showcase 19th-century furnishings and art. The home’s surrounding 14 acres of formal gardens and paths bordered by native bayou woodlands are fully organic and are nationally recognized as among the most significant in the South.

As of May 9, 2008, 656 donations totaling $18,684,500 million have been committed. Major funders include a lead gift from Lora Jean Kilroy. Additional major supporters are Kitty King Powell, Frank J. Hevrdejs, Carole and Kenneth Bailey, the Joe Barnhart Foundation, Alice C. Simkins, Houston Endowment Inc., Bobbie and John Nau, The T.L.L. Temple Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Arnold, Clayton D. Baird, Lacy Crain and Joe Galloway, The Cullen Foundation, Margaret & James A. Elkins, Jr. Foundation, The William Stamps Farish Fund, The Fondren Foundation, Mindy and Jeff Hildebrand, The Meadows Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.