This collection contains correspondence, memos, budgeting and accounting records, and other materials associated with the operation of the Fine Arts Department of Rice University from 1960-1969. The bulk of the material is from 1965 to 1968. Additional records include materials associated with the operation and promotion of the Allen Center gallery. Most of the papers are from the years when John O'Neil was active in the department. Some early papers are from Bill Lacy, associate chairman, and William Caudill, chairman of the Architecture Department. This collection offers a look at how Rice University created the Fine Arts Department that eventually led Dominique and John de Menil to transfer their patronage from the University of St. Thomas to Rice in 1969.
This material is open for research. Stored off-site at the Library Service Center. Please request this material via email@example.com or call 713-348-2586.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from the Rice University Department of Fine Arts, John O'Neil, Chairman records must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Biographical / Historical
Rice University's Department of Fine Arts was established as part of Architecture in 1959 and James Chillman acted as the temporary chairman. Mr. William Caudill took over this job in 1961. In the early 1960’s the Fine Arts Department (changed to the Department of Art and Art History in 1978) consisted of several courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, and art history. The faculty at that time was made up of Charles Schorre, David Parsons, Katherine Brown, and James Chillman as well as Jasper Rose, an Englishman who taught painting and art history. Eleanor Evans came in 1964 to teach a basic design course for freshmen architects. During that time the department offered neither a degree nor a major in fine arts. It served as a service department for the entire University to provide electives for all students. Sandy Havens, director of the Rice Players, requested he be assigned to the Fine Arts Department instead of the English Department.
At that time the Department was housed in the basement of Fondren Library with studio courses being taught in a temporary metal building at the base of the track stadium. In 1968, the Department moved to Allen Center where the first art gallery was established. During the first years, important exhibits included drawings of Dorothy Hood and photographs of Geoff Winningham. It was decided to begin building a permanent collection. The department moved to their new quarters in Sewall Hall in the early 1970’s. There they had classrooms, studios and offices.
In 1969 Dominique and John de Menil left the sponsorship of the Art History Department and gallery at the University of St. Thomas and proposed moving these activities to Rice University. The move of the entire Art Department, collection and staff, was completed and the de Menil’s Institute for the Arts at Rice was born. The Institute sponsored exhibits and published catalogs of national and international interest.
In 1965 John O’Neil was asked to become Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts. He accepted on the basis of being ‘acting’ chairman since it was not certain what the situation would be. In 1967 he decided to accept a permanent appointment at Rice. When the de Menil merger was completed, he continued as Chairman and Mrs. de Menil was the director of the Institute for the Arts.
In 1965 a proposal was made for an undergraduate major in Fine Arts at Rice University. In the 1970’s and 1980’s a Master of Arts degree in history of art and 5th year bachelors degree in studio were offered.
Parts excerpted from "The Cornerstone," published by the Rice Historical Society, Winter/Spring 2001. Also see History of Fine Arts, File 7.8
This collection contains correspondence, memos, budgeting and accounting records, and other materials associated with the operation of the Fine Arts Department of Rice University from 1960-1969. The bulk of the material is from 1965 to 1968.
On November 21, 2002, Geraldine Aramanda, the archivist with the Menil Museum, gave these papers on behalf of the Menil to Rice University.
No future additions are expected for this material.
See also information files for Fine Arts Department and Art and Art History Department and John O'Neil.
Archivist removed some items including personnel files that contained correspondence, resumes, letters of recommendation, etc. for applicants for positions in the Fine Arts Department. As far as can be determined, none of these applicants were hired. Some of these files had water damage and were not suitable for retention.
Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University 6100 Main St.
Rice University Department of Fine Arts records, John O'Neil, Chairman, UA 036, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University http://archives.library.rice.edu/repositories/2/resources/593 Accessed October 05, 2022.