Maurise Guillen Fagan (M.A. ’14)
Maurise Guillen Fagan (M.A. ’14) graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with her undergraduate degree in Art History. Originally from Texas, she was happy to see that the University of Houston had just the master’s degree program she was looking for and she applied. While working toward her Master of Arts in Art History, she was the inaugural recipient of the University of Houston/Menil Collection Fellowship in Curatorial Diversity. This internship allowed her to work in the curatorial department of the Menil for nine months, for 10 hours each week, with a stipend provided by some generous friends of the School of Art. On May 21 of this year, Maurise accepted the position of Department Coordinator in the Art of the Americas department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
LUNAR COUGAR: What is the most challenging aspect of your job today?
MAURISE GUILLEN FAGEN: As the Department Coordinator in the Art of the Americas department, I serve as the liaison between the rest of the museum and the public. I help curators take care of the collections and there’s a lot of organizing and streamlining that goes into that. There is a lot of paperwork to do and then there’s the fact we are always aggressively collecting, so overseeing that process is daunting, as well.
Can you remember an “epiphany” you had while studying at UH?
Early in my first semester at UH, I took a trip with the entering class of Art History MA students to the San Antonio Museum of Art. In a tour led by the great Latin American art curator Marion Oettinger, I found my love, a colonial painting from Mexico in the San Antonio Museum of Art collections that later served as the centerpiece of my Master’s Thesis. I always knew I wanted to go into Mexican art theory, but that Latin colonial period was what really piqued my interest. The late colonial period in Latin America — from about 1540-1820 — are the years I am an expert in.
How did your education at UH shape your life?
Your graduate degree, like the one I received at UH, is a catalyst for your career. Especially in the arts, the curriculum you learn and the people you network with all contribute to your job in the future.
Did you have a favorite professor or class at UH?
I would say that if you are in art history you would be remiss if you didn’t take classes taught by both Dr. Rex Koontz and Dr. Rod Nevitt. They are experts in their very different areas of interest.
What was the most enlightening or influential research you participated in on campus?
The State of Texas has a standing program where you can use any library in the state system with your student ID. Having access to so many state-of-the-art libraries was one of the most important things that contributed to my research as a graduate student. I especially loved learning about Latin American art at the Benson Library in Austin.
What do you think are the most important issues our society is facing today?
I would say scientific illiteracy — a vast majority of our society does not, or chooses not to understand basic tenets of science. That influences how we vote, how we raise our kids and what we choose to study in school. It follows, of course, that for the United States to have a scientifically illiterate population we will continue to fall further and further behind economically and socially. I’m glad that Netflix has chosen to feature old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Hopefully, my nephews will get as much from Bill as I did growing up.
What did you like best about the city of Houston itself? Are there specific activities or places you enjoyed in Houston?
I love the world-class Rodeo that Houston has! I also love that Houston is a really huge city, and that is widely diverse. You can access so many cultural institutions, like the Menil Collection.
What are your hobbies and what is it you enjoy about them?
I love playing outside! Camping, hiking…I grew up horseback riding, so any chance I get to play outside, I do it! I also enjoy playing the mandolin, guitar and piano and knitting and crocheting.
What do you think about UH’s new initiatives?
I am happy to see the new Student Center. It is great to have a new space for different types of students to get together. I also think the Blaffer Art Museum is stellar.
What advice do you have for current UH students?
When you’re on Facebook — sign off and read a book! Read more! Whether you’re a graduate student or an undergraduate, read more than your professors assign.