Texas Art Enthusiasts Contribute to Texas A&M University Art Galleries

Visitors explore the Texas Art Project

Texas A&M University Art Galleries

Linda and Bill Reaves ended up with a case of homesickness. It was 1975, and the beginning educators had just moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from their home state of Texas to take up teaching jobs.

The solution to their desire seemed simple: wallpaper their bare walls with Texas art. To conjure up scenes from home, the couple worked into their teachers’ salaries and purchased prints depicting the Lone Star State. But the art bug really bit when they saved enough to buy their first oil painting at a high school rummage sale in Grand Rapids.

Bill and Linda Reaves

Bill and Linda Reaves

Texas A&M University Art Galleries

Little did they know about the mystery and lifelong love for art that painting would spark. The Rocky Mountain scene with Native Americans in the foreground was unsigned, but thinking it was an original Albert Bierstadt, known for his vast landscapes of the American West, Linda and Bill set out to find their cardinal piece with growing interest. For the next five years, they painstakingly attempted to authenticate the painting. Returning to their home state of Texas to complete their doctorate, the mystery was finally solved – through further research, the Reaves discovered that their inaugural piece was, unfortunately, a period copy.

While some novice collectors might have been discouraged by such a setback, the Reaves were more determined than ever as they embarked on their new quest to find and acquire Texan art. The nostalgic students had become the teachers. Devoting their time to education and knowledge of the arts over the years, they eventually amassed a large and focused collection of Old Texas Art dating from 1920 to 1980.

The culmination of the Reaves’ passion and dedication resulted in a massive donation of their collection to Texas A&M University Art Galleries in late 2021 – with over 350 works on long-term loan, 100 donated pieces and a substantial endowment to keep Early Texas Arts programming alive and well at Texas A&M – providing the genesis of the Texas Art Projectan initiative and collaboration with the staff of Texas A&M University Art Galleries to bring Texas-centric exhibitions, research, and arts programs to Texas A&M and beyond.

The Texas Art Project celebrates the state’s cultural and fine art heritage through biannual exhibitions, co-curated by the Reaves, featuring Early Texas Art from the Reaves’ Collection, the galleries’ existing collection of university art and works borrowed from other private and public lenders. collections.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with the talented team at University Art Galleries to curate a series of thoughtful and engaging exhibitions that can help viewers better realize the robust range, depth and quality of art produced in our state over the years,” said Linda Reaves. “We hope the entire series serves to enhance fine art opportunities for students and the public.”

A recent Texas Art Project exhibit of Texas Impressionist works at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries, “strokes of geniusled to a 286% increase in visitor traffic, with exhibits bringing together Texas A&M classes, homeschool groups, and expert speakers from other museums, like the Grace Museum and the National Cowboy & Western. Heritage Museum.

What started as a whim to cure a case of homesickness turned into a lifelong passion, with the Reaves helping to form the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art (CASETA), operating their own leading fine art gallery in Houston for more than a decade, and now serving as co-editors of the Joe and Betty Moore Texas Art Series at Texas A&M University Press.

After being educators and administrators for more than 35 years, and Bill previously working for the Texas A&M University System, the Reaves’ early call to become educators further compelled them to make a lasting impact on their community and state; while seeking to not only support the needs of Texas A&M students, they plan to introduce underserved communities and rural school districts to the world of Texas art through their recent donation through educational programs, which meet people where they live in their communities.

“Linda and I are especially excited to help bring Texas art to the wider community of Texas and the state,” said Bill Reaves. “We believe that learning and learning more about our state’s rich visual arts heritage only adds further joy and enrichment to the experience of being a Texan.”

To find out how you can support the Texas A&M University Art Galleries and the Texas Art Project through art donations, contact the UART Director Catherine Hastedt. To help support the UART with monetary donations, contact Reagan Chescher at the Texas A&M Foundation.

To learn more about the Texas Art Project’s college art galleries and upcoming exhibits, visit uart.tamu.edu.

Mildred D. Field