For more information about A Place for All People, please contact

Dr. Victoria Ramirez
W.T. and Louise J. Moran Education Director
The Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston

Ibsen Espada creating his mural during Artists at Work.

An Invitation

In the summer of 1992, the Lila Wallace-Readerís Digest Fund (LWRDF) invited the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), to apply for a grant from the Museum Collections Accessibility Initiative, the fundís new project. This initiative proposed that museums use their permanent collections of art as the focus for building audiences from groups not currently served by the museum. Each institution defined the underserved, potential audiences in its own community.

Note: Over the 10 years of this project, the foundation name changed from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, to The Wallace Foundation.

Building on a Tradition of Outreach

The LWRDF grant provided the MFAH the opportunity to revisit its long tradition of community-based programs. The museum began as an art-education, outreach programs for the Houston Public Schools in 1900, when a group of women, many active suffragettes, formed the Houston Public School Art League. This group of progressive volunteer teachers soon began also to sponsor lectures and exhibitions. The MFAH grew out of their efforts and opened its doors to the public in April 1924, as a small art collection dedicated to the community and ďfirst and foremost to bring[ing] art into the everyday life of the layman.Ē

A Place for All People: Phase I

In 1993, the LWRDF awarded the MFAH a five-year grant totaling $1.5 million. The MFAH launched A Place for All People, an initiative to expand its already-ambitious array of community programs and partnerships. In Phase I, these activities were focused on three distinct Houston neighborhoods, Third Ward/ Riverside; East End/Second Ward, Near Northwest. Over the next five years, MFAH staff worked with partner organizations in these communities to improve existing activities and develop a series of innovative programs and exhibitions that interpreted the permanent collection for a variety of audiences and from a variety of viewpoints.

A Place for All People: Phase II

In 1999 the museum received a second grant, totaling $1.25 million from the Wallace-Readerís Digest Funds, supporting a continuation of A Place for All People from 1999-2003. Phase I moved beyond the three target communities and focused on partnerships with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Houston and other area public school districts, and the Houston and Harris Counties public libraries to bring the museum to neighborhoods throughout the sprawling Houston metropolitan area.

Key features of both phases of A Place for All People:
  • The total cost of the project far exceeded the LWRDF grant and represented a major financial commitment by the MFAH to build new audiences, re-focus existing activities, and use the LWRDF grant to leverage funding from private and public sources.

  • Programs were offered to community organizations at no cost and the MFAH made a major commitment to provide free passes to community organizations.

  • The MFAH continued and strengthened its partnerships with Phase I organizations during Phase II. In an ongoing assessment process, some programs were eliminated; others were reconceived; and new programs were initiated.

© 2020 The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston