By Jessica Mize
When Mike Guidry was pursuing his master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Houston in the mid ‘90s, he didn’t realize that was just the beginning of his time with UH.
An art professional originally from New Orleans, Guidry, who now serves as the curator of the UH System’s public art collection, returned to his hometown after graduation but found himself back in the Bayou City roughly 10 years later when Hurricane Katrina forced him to evacuate.
Leaving his home and job as assistant registrar and curator of travelling exhibitions with the New Orleans Museum of Art, Guidry made his way to Houston the night before the storm hit.
“It was the logical choice,” he said. “It was nearby and I still had many friends in the area.”
What started as a brief evacuation stint soon turned into a permanent move, as Guidry learned there was not much for him to return to in Louisiana. The museum where he had worked was closed until further notice and his personal art studio sat leveled to the ground.
“I lost everything,” he said.
His home, a job, an art studio and countless personal belongs – the list of what Guidry lost because of that storm was not a short one; however, he did gain one thing out of it, his current job with the University.
“It was by chance UH was looking for a full-time curator for the public art collection when I came here in late August 2005,” he said. “I was encouraged to apply and interview for the position and thankfully got the job. I was fortunate to be given the chance to start over.”
Fast forward to today and Guidry has now invested more than a decade of hard work into the collection, overseeing everything from negotiations with artists about new pieces to conservation efforts for older works already in the collection.
Guidry’s a one-man show, although he has plans to bring on a public relations and marketing manager in the near future. Additionally, he receives invaluable support and guidance from campus administrators and the System-wide Art Acquisition Committee, which is an advisory board composed of members of the art community, a UH student, members of the Board of Regents and artists. The group assists Guidry with finding new pieces and artists to add to the already robust collection. The members are also instrumental in garnering support for and spreading awareness of the existing library of art available throughout the UH campuses.
“We want UH to be an arts destination,” said Guidry. “We want the public art collection to be recognized both locally and nationally for how amazing it really is. We’re working hard to make all of this happen.”
An artist himself who describes himself as mainly a painter, Guidry has a passion for what he does.
“Working with the artists is my favorite part of the job,” he said. “Seeing the project develop, talking to them about their ideas and seeing it come to fruition is all amazing.”
He’s even been lucky enough to work with artists whose work he’s admired for a long time; however, when it comes to picking a favorite piece from the collection, he simply can’t.
“I have way too many favorites,” said the man with more than 20 years of experience working in the arts. “I like different pieces for different reasons.”
When he’s not busy working, Guidry can be found creating his own works of art, sometimes even in the kitchen.
“I love to cook,” he said. “I like to eat, but it’s the activity of cooking that I really enjoy.”