Richard Stout

Duration: 1hr 35mins
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Interview with: Richard Stout
Interviewed by:
Date: December 4, 1975
Archive Number: OH 175

Interviewer
0:00:00.0 Interview with Richard Stout, December 4, 1975.

Interviewer
Mr. Stout, where were you born?

Richard Stout
Beaumont, Texas, August 21, 1934.

Interviewer
And how long did you live in Beaumont?

Richard Stout
Until I was 18.

Interviewer
And at that time you left for where?

Richard Stout
I got a Scholastic Arts Award Scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, where I stayed for 4 years on full scholarship.

Interviewer
At that time what were you studying? Were you studying painting from the beginning?

Richard Stout
Oh, yes. I was studying painting from the beginning. I became interested in painting seriously after seeing an exhibition of paintings at the then very young Beaumont Art Museum by Morris Graves. I had seen painting before, but most of the 1930’s style social commentary painting didn’t excite me too much. It wasn’t as good as that painting that I knew was good, only by reproductions for the most part, of the past. But Morris Graves’ paintings seemed to strike home more clearly what was to me, and still is to me, the meaning of art.

Interviewer
0:01:30.4 Was it considered unusual for someone from Beaumont Texas to be at the Chicago Art Institute?

Richard Stout
No. Robert Rauschenberg is from Port Arthur, and Morris Graves himself had gone to high school in Beaumont and caused quite a scandal. The Art Institute had students from everywhere. It was the finest art school in the world and had been for a number of years. Although it’s probably not so fine now, but that just has to do with the funding of schools. The universities now have better schools for the most part. I think I was probably the only one in a couple of years that wore boots and blue jeans, and it didn’t sort of fit with the Middle Eastern and Jewish look of most of the students there at the Art Institute. But they kind of enjoyed it, and I was a little unwilling to give it up at the time. Chicago was a shock after living in the South. I’d travelled some but not really lived anywhere for a period of time.

Interviewer
Did you experiment with a number of different styles at the Art Institute?

Richard Stout
Yes. I have always been known as having some sort of magic fingers. I was able to do fairly accomplished work at a very early age. I went through all kinds of styles that interested me and took classes that really pursued working in various stylistic manners to discover what had happened in the arts of the recent past in particular. It was in Chicago that I became increasingly interested in certain kinds of painters that today still are very important to me, of the modern sort, particularly Henry Matisse and Max Ernst and Duchamp and Mondrian and Gustave Moreau and a few others. It was a very good time also to see the new works of the Abstract Expressionists, a school that were beginning to be seen around. Katherine Kuh, who was then curator of contemporary art and exhibitions of contemporary art at the Art Institute, at the time had a gallery in the museum that showed some rather exceptional examples of contemporary art as well as some kind of bad ones like Jack Devine (??) But the first large Mark Rothko show I saw was there. Curiously enough, at the same time there was one being held in Houston at the Contemporary Arts Museum. I first saw both Motherwell and De Kooning, as well as Pollock, and by my second year was taking the nonscheduled national and continental airline flights from Chicago to La Guardia in New York at regular intervals with other students to see what was going on in New York. I suppose in those last 2 years, 55 to 57 of us made all in all 25 to 27 trips to New York. Just to keep up.

Interviewer
Did you like the Mecca?

Richard Stout
0:05:17.5 Well, it was nice to be able to be away from Mecca to work. Because I felt then, and still feel now if I had gone to school at Pratt or some other college in the New York area, like CUPA, that I would have been completely sucked under by the overwhelming culture of New York City. And Chicago didn’t offer that much or that easily. Although the Art Institute was excellent, their modern shows were fairly few. They only had one really good gallery, Allan Frumkin, and later another one, Feigen, by the time I left and no contemporary arts museum. They had an excellent opera, an excellent symphony. By where I worked, by [inaudible] both places, so I could hear music. Chicago was a good experience because the artists and the teachers were quite close to each other because they were largely disparaged by everyone else in the city. And we had to make our way. We put together our own shows since the Art Institute, for some years, had not allowed students or teachers to exhibit in its major area shows. So we put together our own shows. And that continued until the year I left. It started in 1948. In my immediate area, in my class—in the classes immediately before me and after me—at the Art Institute were in my class Richard Hunt, sculptor, who now sits in the National Endowment of the Arts, and Jack Beal who was a roommate of mine my first year there. He shows at Frumkin in New York. And Irving Hetland (??) and Robin Barnes and his first wife, and Cozel D’Burke who just a few years before didn’t matriculate completely but stayed around, Robert Natkin who’s a close friend. And a funny footnote to that is my last show in Chicago was at Robert Natkin’s Well Street Gallery, which was a cooperative gallery, just shortly before he moved to New York. It was a group show that included also the work of John Chamberlain. When I recently had a small show here in Houston, at the Contemporary Arts Museum, it was upstairs from John Chamberlain’s show. And the first thing on my resume as a group show in a private gallery was the Wells Street Gallery Show, and the first thing on his resume was the group show at the Wells Street Gallery. He had, previously to that, been at Black Mountain College, which is another story. There were a lot of Black Mountain people at Chicago, because Black Mountain had just recently closed, or was in the process of closing, so they were going to Chicago and to New York primarily. Chicago was exciting for a lot of Black Mountain people because of the Institute of Design, which was founded by Moholy-Nagy, which was one of the other Bauhaus schools, together with Harvard under Gropius, Whitney’s, and actually Mies at the Illinois Institute of Technology which later absorbed the Institute of Design which is now part of it. But that was all a very exciting time. We had good people that came into the I.D. to give talks. And that had been the case for some period of time. Everyone was desperately poor but people would give talks at the I.D. and the Art Institute. It was a good time. Ryder conducted its symphony which was a particularly good time. That was the beginning of the lyric opera, when Callas came for the first time which was a shattering experience. All the opera singers just stood up and went like that. And she acted, and her Italian was frightening. No one had seen anything like it. It was a gas.

Interviewer
0:09:56.9 At what point did you decide that you had developed a style of your own? At what point did you put away your magic fingers?

Richard Stout
Oh, you never put away your magic fingers. You sort of hope they fall off because they get you in trouble. There are some people that can sit down at a typewriter and their fingers will fly, and they don’t do anything—just so much material, words on a piece of paper. I think I began to get at the idea of what I was about in painting at the end of my sophomore year. I came back to Texas that summer instead of my usual staying—I usually stayed in Chicago and worked at a graphic workshop as well as at my other jobs, so I could do more prints. I came back to Texas, to Beaumont, and I spent a lot of time at my favorite haunt which was the Spindletop Oil Fields. It’s a good place to be lonely. I started to try to synthesize that feeling of emptiness and of its not being a negative thing but a really positive and reassuring thing that seemed to readdress and magnify the soul in a different way. And I did a series of paintings called Landscape with White Skies, one of which is in a collection put together by James Sweeny for Hallmark Cards years ago, two of which are in Chicago, and one of which is here in Charles Tapley. You know Charles and Charles Tapley [inaudible]. The paintings then seemed to sort of move, and have continued to have moved in those general directions, with occasional slides into figuration, mainly to just refresh my memory. I did a lot of work when I was at school. When I came back I had easily over 6000 drawings and a constant number of paintings. Before I moved back to Texas I had gotten a scholarship to go to the Yale Norfolk School. I missed out on the foreign travelling fellowships because I was sick. The last spring of the last year at the Art Institute I was sick with hepatitis and couldn’t be in class to paint the pictures for the foreign traveling scholarship, but they gave me a consolation prize to the Yale Norfolk which was just as fine.

0:12:55.4 After moving the stuff back to Beaumont, I went to Yale Norfolk which is a summer school for the arts supported by a foundation in Western Connecticut and operated by Yale University. I met a few people there that remain very good friends. The sculptor Eva Hesse was there at that time, and was probably the only person that I know that has somewhat of an interaction—oh yes, Cindy Goodman was there. We were in the same house. We were all bunked down in the town. The teachers were Rudy Pozzatti from Indiana, (___??) from Yale who was so-so, and I can’t remember the darn teacher’s name, one of the fairly active Easterners. But the most important person that I met there was Pat Adams, who has been for a number of years teaching at Bennington College. She was sort of a secretary for the school. It was a very good experience. After I finished up at Yale and shipped my material back home—and that was in the summer of ’97—I knew the West Coast reasonably well from travels with the family and I wanted to check out other places in the East and Midwest that I hadn’t been to, to see where to go because I didn’t want to stay in Chicago. I thought Chicago didn’t really, in the long view, offer much promise. And as it’s turned out to be, it’s really true. In order for people to do well in Chicago they have to go to New York. The whole story is that Chicago artists move to New York, but they always keep their Chicago studio just in case. So I went to spend some time in Boston, a week, and [inaudible] minor 1920’s and 1930’s themes, all badly in need of repair.

But when I came back it was all quite a different picture. The Contemporary Arts Museum then existed on a new location. It had large quarters. It was under the direction of Jermayne MacAgy, who I no doubt will talk about more later—absolutely one of the most pivotal personalities I’ve ever run into, as far as my life is concerned. And the Museum of Fine Arts under it’s then director Lee Malone, who was building the Cullinan Hall by East Andrew. Lee was terribly exciting. Stokowski was conducting the orchestra when he was here, and when he wasn’t here Sergent and Beacon (??)were here. And there was a new opera company which had just put on a remarkable production of Salome, so I heard. I didn’t see it. So I decided I’d come here. And my only contact in Houston, indirectly, was through a Swedish gentleman who was the senior vice-president of Nordiska company in Stockholm. He had put together all of the Scandinavian travelling exhibits in the states in the 50’s, named Binked Nord Quest(??). I met him at the Art Institute where I had a part time job. He suggested that if I did come to Houston that I look up Preston Frazier who was then and is now one of the two heads of Faroy. I wrote a rather naïve letter to Preston and received a polite reply. I came over for a weekend and was introduced to absolutely everyone in a very short period of time. I went to a party the first night I was here with him, at Henry and Leila Gadbois’ house on Bingle Road. A beautiful house that they had just moved into when Robert Preusser and his wife moved to MIT, where he is still teaching. I met a tremendous number of people. Most of them I still know and consider very good friends. The next day I had a gallery. Although that was a temporary solution. It was a Cushman gallery. I had been invited to participate in a show at the Contemporary Arts Museum by Jerry MacAgy. I met the director of the Museum of Fine Arts. He’s the curator of education Gruvior who is another remarkable person. I had landed a job selling books which was similar to a job I had in Chicago that had been passed onto me by Klaus Ossenberg at the Main Street Book Store in Chicago. I was selling records and I landed a job selling books on the basis of that at Foley’s. Selling books at Foley’s half of the week for about 27 dollars. But I managed on that. I don’t know how. In today’s crisis it doesn’t seem possible. I commuted around Houston for the first year that I was here by bicycle, until I started buying a series of rather old cars that usually lasted about 3 months before they’d give up the ghost.

0:19:28.5 I was, within a year, asked to teach in summertime at the Museum of Fine Arts because they had some classes available. (___??), then the director of the school asked me to do this and then asked if I would stay on and teach more classes, which I did. I ultimately stayed at the museum 9 years, partially overlapping my time at the University of Houston. One of the last of those years, not the last year, (___??) departed from the museum and was acting director of the school. I taught as many as 5 classes. Going back briefly to my gallery associations here—I was briefly with Cushman Gallery. They came to see my work one day after I had been with them briefly and asked if I had any intention of working figuratively. I said, “No.” And they said maybe I’d be happier at some other gallery, perhaps the New Arts. I said, “Yes, I already know Katherine Swenson quite well.” And I felt that would work out, which it did. I wasn’t particularly sorry to leave Cushman Gallery. They had some very good things. They were showing our William’s work at the time and they did show Edwin Dickinson’s work, but in-between they showed the rather lightweight, Second School of Paris kind of painting, people like (___??) and such—actually not (___??) but people of that type that a little bit later primarily by Billy Breitenbach, who also had a real funny mixture of good and very bad. And I was with Katherine Swenson who was essentially a branch of Andre Emmerich in Houston, and probably one of the most elegant galleries that’s ever been built—on the corner of Brassis (??) and Anita Street for about 2 years. I had a show there. I think it was in ’59. And she was, at the time, having the work of Hassel Smith, Jack Boynton, Jim Love, Lawrence Calcagno, and Walter Kuhlman. Then she had shows of Pre-Columbian art. She had a show of Delvaux which she had to do at her house because it was kind of naughty. And then she had a show of Max Ernst, in which you bought Max Ernst for a very little bit of money, about 3000 dollars. Lovely paintings. About 8 to 10 beautiful paintings. I feel that her taste was very accurate, but certainly enjoyed the response to Jermayne MacAgy, who was a good friend of hers and advised in the installations to some degree. But I feel that Katherine’s taste was also very much her own. They coincided. I also feel that de Menils were also very much involved in that gallery through support by buying works of art and sometimes maybe even underwriting shows—although I cannot say that for sure, but I feel as though it might possibly be the case—particularly in shows such as the Ernst show.

Interviewer
0:23:26.5 Ernst show, that would make sense.

Richard Stout
Yes it would. But a perfectly beautiful gallery. The only thing I bought there—because I didn’t have much money, and I had to pay it out in time—was a Hassel Smith painting, 6 feet square, that we still have. A perfectly beautiful painting. Let’s see, Jim Sweeny came about 1960. By that time Jerry had left the Contemporary Arts Museum, her last show being the Romantic Agony. She did the whole installation in stripes of wide concentric stripes, through the tunnel of the gallery, in black and red. A very incredible exhibition. For a period of time before James Sweeny came to the museum and after Lee Malone had left—he left in early ’58 shortly after his show “New York Paris” which was a pretty interesting show by the way—Jermayne MacAgy through the de Menils had organized a group of people into something called, I’m going to say, “The Institute for the Arts. That is not the correct name. I think the current Institute for the Arts comes from this original sensation. That isn’t really the correct name though. And the person who would be best to talk about things like that would be Joan Flemming, who has a lot of information on this period about all the maneuverings to do all that. The museum board would just not take Jerry as a director because she was a woman. And I think they wanted to. Nevertheless, Jerry did some remarkable exhibitions, at the Museum of Fine Arts too, and Cullinan Hall. Three in Cullinan Hall—Totems not Taboo, (___??), (___??), and The Lively Arts Renaissance in about a year’s time. Very exceptional exhibitions. And she did some small exhibitions. The only one that comes to mind immediately is a small Paul Clay exhibition in the South (??) gallery. They were talking about then setting her up in another museum and people were hoping that would maybe happen so they wouldn’t get involved with the board of Trustees, but lo and behold [inaudible] went to St. Thomas and of course that all came to pass, the St Thomas art department became very lustrous and rich, very beautiful. The scholars who were brought in Bill Kenfield, etc. left a series of (??) and concerts in all areas, beautiful exhibitions that Jerry mounted. And then she died. I think Jerry died in ’64—I want to say it was like February of ’64. Snow fell. I remember that. I really knew Jerry pretty well and admired her so much. She was one of those people that brings everything together. She was a pretty much black and white person. You either hated her or loved her. She was everything great mixed together.

Interviewer
0:27:14.5 Let me interject a question. Houston in the late 50’s and the early 60’s, with the creation of the Art Department at St. Thomas, with the founding and the growth of the opera, with the exposure to these other painters through these exhibitions, would you describe this as a kind of renaissance in Houston?

Richard Stout
Oh, it was fabulous. The list of shows at the Contemporary Arts Museum—not at the Fine Arts at that time—was very exiting. It was as good as anything you could find in any city in the country outside of New York. It was better than what you find in Chicago. As I said before, the Rothko show was here at the same time as it was in Chicago, and it was a much more in-depth kind of an exposition. It was handled in an educational manner. Right from the beginning people were building audiences here. The works weren’t just put up to be walked by and forgotten. People were on the move and all of Jerry’s shows were to educate the public, and she did. What we sort of call the “Houston style” of interior design is all because of Jermayne MacAgy. It’s kind of an eclectic look, no curtains on the windows, or very bright curtains on the windows, Matisse leaves and such, lots of paintings—that’s all her, every bit of it. Good stuff. She would take people who would say, “I can’t afford art.” And she’d say, “I’ll buy art for you for 5 dollars or under.” And she’d take them out to junk shops and grocery stores and find things that were art, and say, “Ok, put ‘em up.” That was before pop art. And it was before the nostalgic craze too. It’s true. I think the supreme example in Houston of the person whose already excellent taste was sharpened by this was the architect Bob Wilson, who’s with Charles Tapley and associates. Certainly even Charles Tapley was involved with this sort of thing. There were just too, too many people who were so close to all of this—Preston Bolton, Howard Barnstone, heaven knows. Just a raft of people. Particularly architects and artists—made the whole thing very exciting , very current. And we knew more of what was really going on in Europe than most people in the rest of the country did. We really knew about Ernst and (___??) and (___??), because we had them here. Everyone had large collections of them, even then.

Interviewer
0:30:16.3 So, once you got to Houston, and you saw that this was going on, you knew that Houston was it.

Richard Stout
Oh, it was it. There was no doubt about it. I saw things here that I couldn’t even see in New York. And the collections were open. Within a week of my being here in Houston I had been invited to the de Menil house, and had seen incredible collections of which were just the tip of the iceberg. Everyone was so nice. Of course there’s been bickering and stuff, but everyone was so very nice. I rarely got to see collections in Chicago. People were very aloof. Never got to see collections in New York. The people were just entirely too aloof. They held it all in. The museums really didn’t have what I wanted to see except the old masters. But here you could really see it—wonderful African art, Oceanic art, Pre-Columbian, everywhere. And the collections in Houston are still, the private collections that no one sees and nobody even knows about, are still quite good. There incredible.

Interviewer
I’m going to get off that to something that you mentioned earlier. You said that Jerry MacAgy was a pivotal figure in your life. Would you elaborate on that a little?

Richard Stout
Stylistically, I would say, in terms of handling things. It’s almost a moral thing. When you are in the arts, you need a point in which you can have faith in yourself. And sometimes you need standards. Jerry gave you standards. She didn’t tell you what the standards were, but she showed you where you could find them and she gave you courage to hold onto them. I would say that’s what Jerry did for me in the beginning that was very important. She supported me. She liked my work. I never knew why she liked it. She once said to me about it, which has always puzzled me, she said, “Richard, your work’s very 18th Century French.” Wateau? Fragonard? Roche? Who? David?

Interviewer
One other thing she said, in the periodical “Art in America” in 1961, was that your work “showed personal reaction to landscapes through the medium of abstract expressionism.” I couldn’t help but think, as I read that, that it said a lot and then it didn’t say anything.

Richard Stout
0:33:11.5 It doesn’t say anything of the—I’m not an abstract expressionist. I’m not a surrealist either. If there’s anyone I can sort of relate my work to and have always been able to relate my work to who’s not a painter, I would say it would probably be Kurt Strauss. I believe in personal heroics in art. When you hear Strauss, it does something different. It’s not a communal thing, it’s “nichey.” They’re not landscapes either. They’re not that much of a simile.

Interviewer
That was the noun she chose.

Richard Stout
I think one at that time would say that sort of thing. Today you would ask a little bit more of that kind of statement in an article of any kind. Art criticism has come, and comments have come quite a far way since the mid-’50’s. That painting, by the way, that she wrote about was one of the 3 Landscapes with White Sky that I did in Beaumont, the summer of 1955, in the oil fields. I didn’t do it in the oil fields, but from that field.

Interviewer
Have you suffered under the label of Abstract Expressionist?

Richard Stout
No. I never am labeled that. I’m never labeled anything, which is probably a very good thing. My work changes pretty rapidly. It changes and it doesn’t change. I enjoy painting too much to want to be bored by doing it. If I find, after 2 or 3 years, that the thing I’m doing is beginning to nag at me I usually make almost a complete change—just turn it inside out. But the process of being an artist is turning yourself inside out anyway. Some people do it very rapidly. Picasso did it about every 5 or 6 years, sometimes in even shorter periods of time. I just saw recently a couple of paintings that Picasso did, 2 of a series, in which he did monumental heads of a very specific type. He hated Brâncusi very much. And he said, “Well, I’m going to out-Brâncusi Brâncusi.” So he just did them. He did 1 a day for about a month and then stopped it. Did a couple of sculptures and then stopped it and went on to something else. I think artists have to have the freedom to do that sort of thing. Otherwise they just become hacks and decorators. And that’s not what art’s about. It’s not (___??) It isn’t wallpaper either. I don’t like labels anyway. I believe art is valid and its validity shows through. Sometimes it takes awhile. Art is it. And anyone can tell if you just honestly look at it. You can tell if it’s good or it’s not good. That Giacometti print up there that looks like one from the Derrier le Miroir—gorgeous. It’s really beautiful. He did things with space that nobody else could do that way. It’s remarkable. It’s also very frightening to paint pictures. Because you never know what’s going to come up. I tell my students that you can fall flat on your face and the next day and never be able to get up. I had a dry spell of 8 months once. I painted every day. Painted it out every night, and nothing came. And I can certainly understand why a lot of artists kill themselves. I really can. It’s tough.

Interviewer
0:38:09.4 You mentioned teaching. That was one other aspect of your work I wanted to touch on. Do you have any particular philosophy of teaching? Anything you try to do with your students? Assist them?

Richard Stout
No, not assist them. I teach roughly by syllabus. I do think, particularly in the first 2 years, that students have to have a very large amount of very specific information given to them and, if possible, drilled into them. So, I’m a tough teacher in the first 2 years. And I’m a kind of very strange teacher in the last 2 years, in graduate school. I think really every student’s different. And of course I think most students really shouldn’t be in art schools anyway. They should be somewhere else, except for those who just want to get some touch to that thing that is art. And that’s certainly a very valid reason. Certainly just as valid to get a touch as to what is art at an art school and never do it again, as it is to being an English major and never write. It’s certainly a very good education. I try to teach with that in mind to a large degree. Then there are the artists that you don’t really treat that much differently because you hope you’re giving all this information to everyone equally, but you have to give them more and challenge them more. Make them challenge themselves more. I think you have to know an awful lot about child psychology too, and psychology, which I don’t know nearly enough to know when you should tell the student the right thing, because if you told him too early it could be devastating and ruin him. And if you told him at the right time, it’s the right time. Too late it’s (inaudible.) In the arts it’s very subjective later on anyway. You have to get them at the right time, tell them specific things at the right time. And then they’re on their way. They’re on their own. It’s okay. No problem.

Interviewer
Can you tell right away the people that don’t belong there and the artists?

Richard Stout
0:40:46.5 I think I can.

Interviewer
But you don’t encourage maybe those that don’t have the talent to leave? You just kind of let them stay?

Richard Stout
Well, of course. They have that right. I don’t necessarily grade them better than they would deserve. If they have some mechanical skills, I grade them according to their mechanical skills. If they worked hard for a B or an A or whatever, they get the B or the A. They may not go on to do anything else, but I do recognize there are artists among those who are in those groups too. There’s the old test that people have given in the past. The student comes in and wants to be in the class and you say, “Okay, draw something.” And they do one of two things. They either draw something, or they say, “What do you want me to draw?” If they say, “What do you want me to draw,” they’re not an artist. I don’t think that’s really an infallible test, but there are several other aspects to it. If someone told me to draw something, I would just start right away. I could draw and I could survive on the ability that I felt as though I had. I could be locked in a little closet like that over there and people could shove me food and drinks day and night. As long as my hands could move, as long as I was awake, I could do drawings and I could do paintings. Nowadays I like to do a little reading and eating and sleeping, a little bit more. But when I was in school I felt as though I could do that with no problem. Also, movement should never be confused with action. It’s not the same thing. It’s like the typewriter that makes all the words.

Interviewer
Earlier in the interview you spoke fondly of Chicago in the days you were a student there. Is Houston today a good place for an artist to be?

Richard Stout
It’s a fabulous place to live, to be an artist. It supports just about as much as Chicago supported then. I think artists here are doing that well, as well as they should. There are more opportunities here than there were in Chicago at the time. I mean, people are looking seriously at Houston as an arts center, and they never really looked at Chicago as an arts center. We don’t really have a great art school here. And there’s not a great art school—well, I’m not sure that there is such a thing anymore, even in the universities. There are some that are better than others. But it doesn’t take a great art school, it only takes 2 or 3 really good teachers. And there are some good teachers here. I won’t say their names. They’ll be in the records. All you need are 2 or 3 good teachers, and the good students will find out who those are, and that’s all that’s really necessary. I think Houston’s a great place to be. The growth of the gallery scene, the interest of the museums is becoming increasingly on toe about Houston. Of course the museums have different commitments, but even Blacker Gallery at the University of Houston, which I operated one year, and then the Institute of the Arts here, Sewell Hall, the little gallery over at St. Thomas, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Contemporary Arts Museum are all coming together very well. And I don’t think that’s going to be the end of it. I think there are going to be other museums built in this city. I’m certain that the Menil Foundation is going to move to its own quarters by the Rothko Chapel. I don’t know if Rice will pick up the ball on the Institute of the Arts and maintain it. They may, they may not. I would suspect that they might be a little bit slow. They’re not funded to the degree it should be funded. My sister-in-law, Helen Winckler, who is now with the (??) Gallery New York was Mr. and Mrs. De Menils’ aide for 9 years before she left them. So, I have watched the growth of the art department here and at St. Thomas very closely. And her youngest brother, my brother-in-law, Paul Winkler, who’s now assistant to the director of the International Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, has recently worked for the Institute of the Arts and has done installations for them—the Novasc-Martin-Rothko show this summer, I believe the show called the Northwest Coast American Indian Show currently, and will also be doing the installation for our new Beau show coming up in spring. So, I’ve been watching all of this sort of curiously. And there’s some input in some areas that I’m not really sure of its validity. I’m not sure that it’s terribly sharp or knowledgeable to import some of the material that’s being imported. It’s not as sensitively being assessed as to its impact in the crevice of its impact here. It powers as education, and in the broader sense as art, I’m suspect of the Rothko-Martin show, but more on a national scale, art in America magazine material. I do sense in some areas a little lack of this kind of sensitivity of putting together exhibitions either by private galleries or public ones. In that we were beginning to be fed a lot of oatmeal. And a lot of this oatmeal is just about as bad as some of that second school of Paris stuff that we were being fed in the 50’s.

Interviewer
0:48:01.2 Could you be a little more specific?

Richard Stout
Yeah.

Interviewer
If it’s possible to be specific about oatmeal.

Richard Stout
I can well understand the reasons that there would be galleries in town selling paintings by Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell and Robert Munro and Anthony Caro—I’m speaking primarily of Watson/deNagy and Company, which is associated with my dealer Meredith Long and Jamie C. Lee. Both are imminent galleries and they do a very good job. Because that’s high-class blue chip stuff. Now it may not hold up in the long run, but it’s with-it, up-there stuff. I don’t particularly like all of it because I’m not into that area. I like Penderecki better than I like Karlheinz Stockhausen for instance. I think Frederika Hunter does kind of a more interesting job at the Texas gallery when she looks around and she finds kind of stranger people and things that seem to bounce better off of Houston and sort of capture the imagination a little bit better. I’m very suspect of some of the extreme minimalism of what goes on in Barbara Cusack’s gallery. These people also have very good reputations, but it seems too little and too late and not very significant. It’s exciting and that’s all okay. It will come and go on its own. By the same token, I think that—and this hasn’t happened here, I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t—that there has been no gallery that has shown the photo realists, which I think are abominable. No gallery in Houston is picking them up, to speak of, and shown any of them.

Interviewer
0:50:11.2 This is the same thing as super realism?

Richard Stout
Uh-hunh (affirmative). And it’s just something that has never really caught the imagination of Houston buyers. There are very few in Houston collections compared to other painting, which is fine with me because I don’t think it’s serious painting. If I’m damning myself to a large audience because of that, I think I can make a rational in my mind as to say, “Okay, it’s serious painting.” But it’s still, getting back to what I believe painting is, I think it’s really less-than-serious painting. It’s a less-than-serious direction. There’s an awful lot of churning going on in the art market here, and most of it’s very good. The real cheapy art—I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s starving artists and drug store art, but just above that, decorator art—is really going out the window. People aren’t buying it anymore to any large degree. Of course there will be some people that will buy it. Aris Long (??) had a very fancy little operation here and they couldn’t make it. That’s what they sold primarily, and they just couldn’t make it. They were even getting financial help, and they just couldn’t make it. They had all those kind of flashy things. Baily, who’s a very nice person, has some of the people that worked at Aris Long (??), that do kind of flashy stuff. But it’s merchandise kind of art. It’s merchandise in the same way that cowboy art is merchandise. That’s a whole different bag. It’s really not art either. It’s the kind of merchandising thing that happened to the Second School of Paris, once again. [inaudible] It’s a perfect example of that.

Interviewer
0:52:18.9 Would it be fair to say that Houston buyers maintain a large, if not a surprising degree, of independence? Not necessarily following fads?

Richard Stout
They’re very, very independent. That’s true. They’re very independent. They’re very supportive of Houston painters. It’s unusual to go into a fine Houston home and not see paintings by Dorothy Hood, John Alexander, myself, Jack Boynton, Earl Staley hanging on the walls with their Jack Younger prints and Helen Frankenthalers and Robert Motherwells, on a same equal basis. And that’s very refreshing. There are a number of print makers and artists that are doing prints now in the city, and the Houston public has been very good at supporting these and buying up editions. And through Bob Lowe, who has also sent them out through his little (??) press and a number of other people, Ruth Alexander in New York is beginning to pick up Houston artists and publishing their works, like Staley and Kendlin (??) etc. It’s very exciting. Houston buyers are—there are a large number of them, they’re very independent, they use their eyes. Of course, you’ll always find—there certain artists who will always fall into a category at a certain point in their life, which is dangerous. Dorothy, who is right now, unfortunately in this area where she is famous, and certain people are going to buy “their Hood.” It’s sort of a mark of style, like not everyone has a Volvo, or a Mercedes Benz. It’s sort of a mark of class. You’ve got to have a Dorothy Hood. My very good friend Johnny Alexander is very distressed by the fact that he is the darling of the decorators. Decorators love his paintings. They’re kind of dense, stretched Texas landscapes in a way. But there is really a lot more to them than that. But he really objects to the fact that that categorizes him. He doesn’t object to the fact that it brings him more money, but it categorizes him.

Interviewer
Do you worry about this happening to you?

Richard Stout
It hasn’t happened yet.

Interviewer
0:54:43.5 It’s a form of flattery though.

Richard Stout
Oh, sure it is. Sure it is. You just have to know how to handle it. And I think most of the people, most of the artists know how to handle it. I don’t really care, just so the stuff goes out, so I can get a little bit more money, so I can buy more canvas and paint, so I can paint more pictures. I think that’s okay. I mean, I do okay even without selling pictures because I have a pretty fair salary at the university. But to be able to paint the pictures at will and sell them, it gives me an extra pleasure. I really enjoy painting pictures. And I don’t think I’d stop. I also don’t think I’d stop teaching. I like teaching too much.

Interviewer
Let me back up and ask you a sociological question. Do most of your students live in Montrose?

Richard Stout
No. They live all over.

Interviewer
Is it—one idea, it might be a myth, but one idea or myth about Houston is the artists congregate in Montrose. Do you find that to be true?

Richard Stout
The artists—I was the first artist to move to the Montrose area. In fact, I’ve lived in Montrose since I’ve been in the city. I bought a house there in 1960. But then Montrose was very cheap. Now Montrose is very expensive. I bought my house in 1960 for 11,000 dollars. It was a 13-room house. This last year the house behind us—not directly behind us, but next to that—sold for 93,000 and it only has 2 bedrooms. Montrose is very expensive, and very chic. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it because you find dirty bookstores right next to nasty run-down apartment houses, then you find some nice places. I hope that Montrose doesn’t sort of fall apart because of that. I hope we can hold out longer than the dirty bookstores and the nasty apartment houses. But even garage apartments are renting now for 180 dollars a month in Montrose, which is absurd. So, students can’t really afford that for the most part. If they do live in Montrose, they are likely to live in the poor sections of it, up near Bremond Street and closer to town. There are a number of artists that do live in Montrose and the immediately adjacent areas, but only a few of them own their houses. Just a few of them do. Most of them rent or have some sort of agreement. A lot of artists are moving to Pikes because it’s cheap. And artists usually move to where it’s cheap. Montrose was cheap.

Interviewer
0:57:48.0 Are there any other enclaves of artists in the city?

Richard Stout
No. I would say Montrose, if not the physical home, is certainly the spiritual home of the artists, because the art supply stores are there and the museums at the southern foot of it, and St. Thomas is in the middle of it. The chapel is its crowning glory, the Rothko Chapel that is. Fairly soon, once they get it started, the Menil Foundation complex will be in the heart of Montrose, which is going to be of world-wide importance.

Interviewer
There’s one other loose end I want to go back to in the interview. Why did you start teaching at the U of H and leave the Museum of Fine Arts?

Richard Stout
Well, I was making about 125 dollars a month at the Museum of Fine Arts. I enjoyed it very much. It was enough for me to live off of. I met my wife for the first time at a Karlheinz Stockhausen concert at St. Thomas. I went to Europe that summer after 4 dates and told all my friends I was getting married. They said I was crazy. I came back and we got married the next year. It was apparent to me that we would have children and I would have to get a job because 2 people and a baby can’t live off 125 dollars a month. Salaries, of course, at the museum have gone up somewhat. So, I applied for a part-time job at the University of Houston, which is a lot more work for just a little bit more pay. And the then chairman of the department, Peter Guenther, said that they would hire me if I got my terminal degree, which I did by commuting twice a week to the University of Texas. I would teach on Tuesday 9 hours, and I would drive to Austin, check in at a friend’s house where I would stay, go to bed, get up at 6 the next morning, go to the university, work, have breakfast at the Teahouse across from the art building, go back and work and do whatever research I had to do at lunch, get back into the car around 7 or 8, drive home, go to bed, get up, teach, travel back. And that went on for 2 years. I got my masters in ’68, which in arts is a terminal degree, and was hired. I got a ’68-’69 contract. I have just been tenured this last year. So, although I’ve been there 10 years, I’ve only been full-time 7 years. It’s really strange—the first year that I was teaching part time at the University of Houston I was also still teaching at the Museum of Fine Arts. And the year prior to that, I was acting dean at the school.

I haven’t brought up James Sweeney who was—I shouldn’t say pivotal in my career, in any way similar to Jerry MacAgy—but was, I think certainly very important in Houston because he gave another side of the art picture at the same time Jerry MacAgy was giving her side of the art picture, both very valid and very sound. He was here for just over 6 years, which was a long time for him because he was only at the Guggenheim for 7 years. He built a collection of considerably—became a rather good friend. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to have—for some reason, luck I suppose—to have been able to count a number of museum directors and curators friends. I don’t think that necessarily helps you professionally at all because you’re naturally hesitant to use anything of that nature. With regards to Sweeney, I never did. Of course to MacAgy I never did, and I haven’t really used a situation like that. I think a lot of people do use situations like that, but I won’t. I don’t think that’s morally correct to do that sort of thing. Sweeney was—it’s certainly well-documented in other areas—Sweeney was exciting here but he was very debilitating for the museum in other ways because he was a one-man-show in a different way than MacAgy was. She was certainly a one-man-show. But when Sweeney left town, everything had to come to a halt. Nothing could be done. His pragmatic decisions were usually fairly obtuse. All printing had to be done in New York. If a whole edition of catalogs came back with one mistake, he’d send them all back. And sometimes we wouldn’t get catalogs for a show until the show was down. The most important show that he put on—possibly the most important show of that 10 years in the United States—was called heroic years. And to this day there’s still not a catalog or an essay that he promised to write for the Houston Museum for that catalog, which I think is a tragedy.

Richard Stout
1:03:59.2 It’s been my pleasure to be the first artist to sit on the board of trustees at the museum. It’s my second year. I have watched very closely the growth of the Museum of Fine Arts. Each director of the museum has brought to the museum his own personal style and taste, in both collections and exhibitions, and the development of the staff. After Sweeney left the museum, there was a short time which then Mary Bux, but now Mary Cane was acting exhibits director. She did some interesting shows. Certainly not the quality of Sweeney’s shows, but done with much the same flair of Jerry MacAgy.

Of course when Jerry died, Dominique de Menil and a number of other people continued on the tradition of her exhibitions. And the current exhibition at the Institute of the Arts has the look of a Jerry MacAgy exhibition even though it was done by Paul Winkler. Philippe de Montebello came in with a lot of critical haggling in the beginning, mainly because she could taste that Sweeney was too recent in her mind. She really kind of picked at him, almost unfairly and made it a little hot for him. Which is probably okay because he was awfully stiff-backed at first, then completely warmed up and was quite a charming person by the time he left. In fact he now wishes he was back in Houston because his job at the MET is too much of a job. It’s a terrible job to be a museum director, let me tell you. Philippe raised the money for the new building, he raised a fine staff, a good part of which we lost to senior institutions. Jack Schraeder became the director of the Posters museum in New York, and on. Then after a surge of a year, while Philippe de Montebello was still here, of course Bill Agee, and Bill’s imprint on the museum was quite different from that of Philippe, or for that matter James Sweeney. He’s picking up loose ends in American art, important American art in particular that the past directors have not filled. Important paintings by important American painters. Noland. I don’t always agree with the people, for the reasons I stated earlier, but it’s nevertheless still important works and certainly in line and good quality all the way. Hangs installations very beautifully and has done a series of very magnificent shows and is bringing Houston’s extraordinary exhibitions. The upcoming Hermitage show is one, and the Houston Museum together with the Museum of Modern Art in Houston and I guess the Museum of Modern Art in Paris are the only museums sharing the late Picasso show. Which is a quite remarkable exhibition that the Museum of Modern Art has taken 15 years to put together.

Then moving on over to the Contemporary Arts Museum, after a number of short-term, sometimes very brilliant interim directors including among others Donald Barklemey(?), after Jerry MacAgy left, the museum settled on Sebastian Adler for it’s director who was here for about 7 years, built the new building, but never was really very strong in exhibiting works. His taste was rather flat. His eye was not very good. I always felt that his sights were not really on Houston, but somewhere else, more on himself. I still feel that’s to a large degree true. The current director, James Harrith (??) is quite different. He’s very exciting personably. Very interested in Texas art. He’s doing in Houston what Henry Hopkins at the Fort Worth Art Center did 4 or 5 years ago, with not even as much money as Henry had. Bringing attention to Texas art, particularly Houston art. All [inaudible]. So, focusing all the eyes, really focusing a lot of attention on art that’s being done in Texas as being different than art being done in other places, and certainly as good, certainly mainstream. I disagree with one aspect of it, and he’s not really guilty of it. Henry Hopkins was. And it’s this sort of creation of the Texas school of painting, sort of cowboy punk art, which I think is very bad. And Jim has shown some of it. The current show, Terry Allen, I think is probably the best of the Texas punk artists. But the others, like George Green, I think are pretty bad. Jack Namms (??), who hasn’t been shown there, is really pretty awful. But there is a lot of really superbly good visual art being done in Texas, and he addresses himself to it. That we see the work of Luis Jiménez, really before he went (??), I think is great. That we see really big shows from a young sculptor like James Earls is really tremendous. It’s exciting, rich, totally new top stuff. And Jim does that. He does it well. His energy is boundless in these areas and his support is boundless. And he really sets you up so you’ve got to paint. If you don’t paint, you look like a fool. If you don’t come off doing something, you just look like an absolute fool. I was so pleased that he had the Dick Ray show in September because Dick is a remarkable painter and hasn’t been seen at all, partly by his own doing. But this really worked. Houston’s an exciting place to be.

Interviewer
1:11:33.9 I remember being impressed by that show. The Dick Ray show.

Richard Stout
You wouldn’t see stuff like that anywhere in the world. That’s new. That’s new.

Interviewer
It occurs to me that what we’ve discussed so far, we haven’t said much about ethnic art. And if you haven’t really studied it or paid much attention to it, I suppose we could just gloss over it. But I would like to at least ask 1 or 2 questions. First, is there much market in Houston for things like Conguma’s(?)murals?

Richard Stout
The Menil Foundation sponsored the De Luxe Show at the old De Luxe theater—you’re probably familiar with this—on the north side a few years back. I think the statement there really hit home to an awful lot of people, Peter Bradley’s statement about how really dumb it was to get involved with politics and society and all those things. That if you’re going to be an artist you’re not going to be a black artist or a pink artist or a Polish artist or whatever, you’re just going to be an artist. To so categorize yourself as being a black artist is really being unfair to yourself as an artist. And unfair to your race. Whenever I run into students of different ethnic backgrounds, I hand them that line. Read Richard Hunt’s statement here in Time Magazine, who refused to participate in the big Whitney show because it brought up real social issues. It wasn’t just an art show that happened to be done by blacks and whites and such, it was a political move. But then on the other hand, there is a very strong movement through Texas Southern University and John Biggers which is somewhat bitter, a very dynamic ethnic movement and somewhat bitter. Now that disturbs me a little bit because it really kind of gets away from art in a way. I like John’s work and I like John. But I see kids coming out of it and saying, “Well, that’s it.” Well that isn’t it. It just isn’t it at all. It’s maybe part of it, but it’s not “it.” I think we’re beginning to see a real turnaround with the Mexican-American artists in the area. A lot of it has to do with Luis Jiménez’s show that was here. A few years ago, I just sort of held my head when I had a Mexican-American student because I knew that they just didn’t have any faith in themselves, they didn’t have any pride in what they were doing, and they didn’t feel as though they were anything or could ever be anything. It would be very hard to get them to commit even to doing a good drawing because they knew they couldn’t do it. And that’s changing. It’s changing pretty rapidly. We’re beginning to find some very exciting, very committed young Mexican-American artists, more so there than in the black community, which I find surprising. I’ve had—they’re a little bit more open to suggestion. They’re a little bit less guarded to a larger degree than the black students. However, the influence of Kermit Oliver in town has been a very good one right from the very beginning. His wife Katy is in my class right now and she’s quite good. Kermit deals with a figurative image, but he deals with it in a non-political way. It’s a personal way. It’s perfectly legitimate. I think you can deal figuratively with material and it’s fine. But when it begins to become strong politics just as politics, not as art, I think that really falls apart. All these people seem to get along just—the sculptors and the painters, the blacks and the browns and the white work fine together for the most part. I wish there was more communication with the TSU, but they’re a little reluctant about that. We’ve tried. At the University of Houston, I’m sure Rice has tried too. But they’re a little stand-offish. I can well understand that.

Interviewer
1:16:30.6 Were they more so after the “riot” at TSU?

Richard Stout
No. A lot of this goes back to, I think, John Biggers’ snub at the Museum of Fine Arts many years ago. In about ’56, he and James Boynton shared the first prize of the Houston Airing Show, which was later cancelled, not the prize but the show. There kind of had to be special dispensation to allow blacks to come into the museum for the opening of the show. It was way back in those days.

Interviewer
How extraordinary.

Richard Stout
1:17:12.7 People have no idea what’s happened racially in the city of Houston since that time. Now it seems so relaxed and so at ease, much more so than probably any other city in the country and with no real problems, no really big hassles. A friend even moved down from Dallas and said, “I’m just amazed. The blacks in Dallas are so rude and uptight and here they’re so friendly. They’re just like everybody else.” I said, “Well, that’s just Houston.” But, more people seem to be more a part of community. Anyway, going back to the John Biggers thing, I think that just embarrassed him so much that it just embittered him to the white community to a large degree.

Interviewer
And then he flies off to Africa and finds his roots.

Richard Stout
Well, that sounds bad because I don’t think that is bad. He’s looking for roots. He has roots and he’s looking for roots. He’s a painter. He could be so much of a better painter. If you just relax about it. But he’s a very good painter and he’s a good teacher.

Interviewer
I would like to bring the interview to a close by just asking you about what you’re doing now, what your current interests are, your current paintings.

Richard Stout
Well, since I spent the last 3 ½ weeks in either interviews like this or meetings at the university or the Museum of Fine Arts, I haven’t had very much time to do anything. I have been able to get a few drawings done and finish up a couple of small paintings. My holidays are going to be filled with doing a great deal of more work. I have shows coming up in New York in the spring, and supposedly at the Contemporary Arts Museum in either the late spring, summer, or early fall, upstairs, which terrifies me because I hate that room. But I’m not alone there, the director hates that room too and wishes he could kill the architect and the man who hired the architect. I’m having very good luck with doing small things, and very good luck with doing large things, and no luck at all with doing medium-sized things. And that’s just a matter of getting some things together which just take time. The paintings are generally very warm, they’re generally quite simple and quite tortured. It would not be unfair to say that they, in some ways, resemble late Turners, but that’s a catch-phrase these days. They’re not all about the same things that Turners were about, or done in the same way, but there are aspects to the painting that look like they’re figurative to almost that degree, but they’re not figurative of things, they’re figurative of ideas. And they’re really landscapes, but they’re landscapes of the soul because you don’t look into them like landscapes. They’re certainly not like anything that I’ve seen, which is fortunate. And I just hope that people don’t start painting like me because then I’ll have to—you know, there’s always the horror of every artist who has a show in New York that just before the show opens in New York, you’ll open up the art magazines and there’ll be a color spin on someone who’s working exactly like you. It just happens on occasion. I just hope that doesn’t happen. It’s one of the nightmares we wake up screaming—that’s about it. I’d like to travel more. I haven’t been able to mainly because of the kids who are a little too young to travel. They’re not that young, but they’re noisy. Just take care of my soul for awhile. I’ve been reading a great deal. I just finished re-reading practically everything Bloomsbury, but that’s very chic. I’d better read it now before it’s out of style next year. I’ve always liked Virginia Woolf. Two of my favorite books have always been The Waves and Orlando. And I read them and most all of her other things when I was in school in Chicago. I’ve since re-read practically all of her work. The Quentin Bell biography completely, she and Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. Lady Adeline Morel’s biography, and finishing up Leonard Woolf’s 5 volume biography now which is beautiful. But that’s all quick reading and very pleasant stuff. I generally like biography and history as opposed to novels. I got started on Ragtime, which is Doctorow’s. I read the first page. I got it for my birthday and I haven’t gotten back to it. I loved the first page, but I haven’t been able to get back to it.

 

 

Interviewer
1:23:11.2 In know the feeling. Earlier you spoke of 2- or 3-year cycles after which you thought that there was the possibility that you would become bored and you’d start experimenting and changing. Are you nearing the end of one of those cycles?

 

Richard Stout
Yeah, right. I have to go back to about ’68. My work became very symmetrical and very close in value, largely blue, extremely symmetrical and arranged on the vertical axis. The themes involved cyclogenesis—the beginning of original cycles and all this sort of thing. That’s about the time I had my second show at the Matinee Art Institute in San Antonio. They involved not real religious symbolism, but all those things that have to do with beginnings. Then the paintings became rather complex and rather painty, and that’s when I had my 8-month dry spell. What I actually did was just turn the paintings inside out. I really did turn them inside out. I started them from the edges instead of from the middle. That seemed to work. I started with a big “X” over the whole thing and then worked in from the edges. That still is a minor motif in my work. Then after about 2 years they started to change again. They became divided horizontally into zones, equal zones, and top to bottom in unequal zones with curves starting to repeat and sort of cut through—almost (??) forms but more tightly controlled. Not close in value to a very large degree, but very grayed with bright and rich color but very grayed color, European color as Mario Amaya says. And European thinking. I kept quietly saying, “Why are you saying that?” Most Americans don’t understand that kind of color, and he says it’s better. He’s the director of the now New York Cultural Center. Then all that sort of thing started to break down. All those divisions started to break down, the edges started to disappear and the paintings became very much more textural and stronger in value contrast and more Wagnerian, more soaring.

Interviewer
1:25:58.0 As opposed to Strauss.

Richard Stout
Well, Strauss liked Wagnerian too. His goes up and then it goes up again. This one climax after another. This is the peaks. This is absolutely the peaks. The Four Last Songs, the Passacaglia by Webern. It starts off so simply and clearly and then it builds into a cacophony that’s still clear, and then it comes clean again at the end. It’s very nice. I like Webern very much. He’s a great composer. Oh, another great favorite is Pyotr llyich Tchaikovsky, The Piano Concerto No. 1. It’s very good. I like (__??). I’m just mentioning things I like.

Interviewer
Do you paint to music?

Richard Stout
I have music on all the time, constantly. We love the opera. We go every time there is one. We can’t go simply because we don’t have time. We try to stay home at least 2 to 3 nights a week because of the kids. Sometimes I have to go out and do things but someone has to be there. We can’t spend all of the money on babysitters, and the kids need us. With official things at the university that I have to attend and at the museum that I have to attend, and my gallery that I should attend, and other openings it’s a very busy schedule. So, if you just get a chamber orchestra and opera and a couple of smaller chamber groups like Lyric Opera, that’s a full schedule. You can go to 5 or 6 or 8 different cultural things in Houston every night, and it’s been like this for quite some time. People come from as near away as Dallas. We always try to arrange things so things don’t overlap because if you’re having a lecture here and a lecture over there, we won’t get anyone here. That hasn’t been a situation in Houston for years, at least 10 years. [inaudible] There’s a lot here and a tremendous amount that’s good. Very exciting. It’s a feast. As Earl Staley says, “Houston is a piece of cake.” It’s just the best piece of cake around. There’s no other place that I know of in the Western world that offers so much cultural excitement right now, and that young people can be in on the ground floor of it, as you can here. It’s a fabulous place to be.

Interviewer
1:28:58.7 Before I end the interview I’d like to ask if there’s any aspect of your work, or in Houston in general, that I’ve neglected and you’d like to comment on?

Richard Stout
I’m not sure that we haven’t covered everything. I’m sure we haven’t covered everything. And listening to this again, I’m sure there would be many things that we would want to pick up again. That the city has not officially supported art to any large degree, or the county, they’ve been very bad about this. I think there’s a change in feeling, at least with the current mayor about this sort of thing. And the Arts Council is making some efforts. The purchase of the Oldenburg certainly was very helpful. But it’s certainly not the enlightened approach of city government, the aesthetic aspect of city government and beautification that Chicago has had, which has made Chicago unique in the world, at least as a 20th century city in the world. Some smaller cities have since picked up on that idea. I’ve always been amazed that with the conservative—which is okay—but generally bad government of this city and county that Houston has managed to do as well as it has. What would happen if we really had good people here, like the late deLesseps Morrison that knew all of these—people of that character and quality running the government here? We’d be paradise on Earth. It comes pretty close. Nevertheless, I think that’s a great lack, support. It doesn’t even have to be to a large degree monetary, although that would be part of it. I made some suggestions to certain members of the board at the Houston Museum about trying to set up something of this nature. St. Louis has a very good funding program through the county of St. Louis—it’s not St. Louis County, it’s another name—that works quite well. It’s not really a tax, it comes by another route. And they’re working on that to see if we might be able to propose it in 2 or 3 years, but it takes a lot of work. I find that corporations here, with very few exceptions, are also very poor in their support of the arts. Looking over the gifts to institutions and the corporate gifts, the united funding of the art institutions has been very low. I also know that it’s very low for universities for special efforts in the area of gifts that can go to anything. It’s remarkably low what corporations give. However, one thing that Houston has that very few other cities have in the country is a group of foundations that are extremely large. I believe in Texas Monthly’s article last month on what are the 10 largest foundations in the state of Texas, 6 were in Houston, 1 was in Galveston, and the other 3 were between Dallas and Fort Worth. And the ones in Dallas and Fort Worth were down at the bottom of the heap. That Houston Endowment and the Brown Foundation and this doesn’t even count what the Arie (?) Bob Smith Foundation is going to probably come up with, or the Blacker foundation which has not been publically announced yet either. These all benefit the city, or the state of Texas—I think by law they have to benefit the state of Texas within the state of Texas. But most of them benefit the city first. And I think that’s remarkable. Just look at the medical center, the gifts to the museums. Private museums are not publically supported except by very minor donations from the city. The underwriting by foundations like the Cullen Foundation of the ballet in the past, I don’t think anyone has even the slightest idea of the amounts of money that the Cullen Foundation has put into, through Ozzie Farnell(??) and others, into support of ballet in the city in the city, underwriting whole things. A word never said about it. A whole year of symphony performances when salaries shorted out. It just was done and forgotten. It’s okay, I guess, within [inaudible].

Interviewer
1:34:17.8 Well, that’s one point of setting it down on tape.

Richard Stout
I said in a thing for Cooper Industry that I did part of a film that they called, “A kind of Love,” because it was from something that I said—most of the people that have made a lot of money in Houston have given it back to the city in foundations. And that shows the kind of love that’s very remarkable, in the sense that it is what happened in New York in the 1890’s to about 1910. The people there set up foundations and set up situations which richly supported the cultural institutions, particularly in New York City and to some degree the nation. That’s where Houston is very exciting to be in, because of things like that. It’s an open society and a free society like New York, and it really is kind of a melting pot.

Interviewer
Well, I have taken a great deal of your time, and I certainly appreciate this interview. It’s been very valuable. We’ve got down a great deal of information. So, on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center, I’d like to thank you very much.

Richard Stout
Okay.

1:35:52.8 (end of audio)