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CAMH Director Hesse McGrawDirector’s Note

This is an extraordinary year for the Museum. First, 2022 is the 50th anniversary of our iconic Gunnar Birkerts building, which we reinvent with every show. This past year, we not only opened our doors wide but also moved far beyond the Museum to reach audiences where they are. Cauleen Smith showed us the importance of shared knowledge and history, and The Dirty South—hailed as the exhibition of the year by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times—unveiled 100 years of the deep cultural undercurrent of the South. CAMH is the only venue to share this exhibition with audiences for free.

CAMH launched the Teacher Advisory Group this past year, through which HISD teachers build curricula from our exhibitions, reaching over 20,000 HISD students; we taught the Houston Rockets to Trust Artists; and took CAMHLAB outside our walls, introducing artists-in-residence to Montrose Collective.

We believe Houston is the most underrated city in the U.S. That may be because we’re ahead of our time or because we don’t sufficiently preserve our past. Either way, our opportunities are right in front of us. We are welcomed into this place of possibility. Between our wildcat ethos and moonshot mentality, Houston’s no zoning freedom gives way to the delirious sense that anything is within reach. Houston is the place one comes to invent the future.

CAMH exists to bring artists and audiences together through unexpected and unforgettable experiences with contemporary art. As we approach our 75th year next fall, we’re looking ahead to inspire communities across the city. We talk a lot about our goal to get beyond the Museum’s walls, to spill into the streets, and to meet audiences where they are. We’re most proud when projects boomerang from the gallery to the community and back.

Today, our question is, how can we best take on the challenge of enhancing the civic life of Houston?

CAMH’s role in this city has always been to stake new ground, introduce new voices, and shake things up. Over the last 74 years, CAMH presented the first-ever solo Museum exhibitions of Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, Garrett Bradley, and many others. This year, we’ve introduced the first solo museum shows of Diane Severin Nguyen and Troy Montes Michie. CAMH also originated the first-ever museum exhibitions of Amoako Boafo, Mariah Garnett, and Ming Smith. As with many shows from CAMH’s past, the impact of these exhibitions crystallizes in the coming decades.

Beyond CAMH, our Teacher Advisory Group will return for its second year with new school partnerships, artists embedded in classrooms, and a deeper curricular engagement. CAMHLAB will continue to grow and evolve through a new location and expanded community integration.

We’re especially eager to see the alchemy that will unfold through our partnership with Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, a collaboration with the Fourth Ward community, the City of Houston, and multiple artists to preserve and tell the story of freedom.

CAMH was founded during the potent aftermath of World War II when seven Houstonians came together to invent a new kind of Museum that would animate, excite, and sometimes unsettle this city. This ethos still drives us forward. CAMH works purposefully — both within our parallelogram and beyond those four walls — in the classroom, with community, and in places further afield to share the essential role of artists in society.

As I consider this remarkable inflection point in the life of CAMH, I am profoundly grateful to the artists who generously share their work with us and place their trust in us; to our entire team for bringing purpose, energy, and joy to our work; to our board for their stewardship and care for CAMH; and to our audiences for their curiosity, skepticism, and embrace of the new. Together, we can advance the Museum into the future Houston and Houstonians deserve. We are still striving to be less like an authoritative museum and become a place that is vital to all lives, especially our audiences. Thank you for your commitment to CAMH. We can’t wait to envision the future together.

Sincerely,Hesse McGraw
Executive Director