Stella Houston

A famous New York painter makes art for a Texas university - for a ton of money.

Abstract painter Frank Stella has a message for the University of Houston : Thanks a million, give or take a few thousand. In December the 61-year-old New Yorker will begin work in Houston on a mural to be installed next summer at U of H’s new 141,000-square-foot Moores School of Music . Here are the colorful details. Back in the summer of 1994, as plans were being drawn up for the school, two committees met to address the question of public art. They could spend $165,000, or 1 percent of the building’s total budget (the proportion U of H always allocates for public art whenever a new campus facility is built). After a list of artists was kicked around, Nancy Hixon , the coordinator of the university system’s art collection, suggested Stella, whose installation at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto was getting wide play in all the architecture magazines. Hixon contacted him, and to everyone’s surprise he happily sent a proposal; it turned out that he traces his interest in public art back to the 1982 “Stella by Starlight” gala at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts . The only problem was money: Stella’s mural would cost $1.5 million, nearly ten times what U of H had put aside. Yet the university was so eager to work with Stella that he was asked to scale back his plans—which he did, to $950,000—and a fundraising group began soliciting private gifts to cover the remainder. As of October 1, U of H had $465,000 on hand (the $165,000 plus a total of $300,000 from three donors), and it hopes to have the rest by early next year, when Stella comes to campus to attend a party for the Moores school.

Altar Ego

Is Steve Earle the Liz Taylor of alternative country? The San Antonio native—who told Rolling Stone in April, “I would hate to be my wife. I’ve been a serial husband”—is getting divorced for the sixth time. He and his soon-to-be ex, Lou Anne , were wed on September 13, 1994 (or should we say remarried; Lou Anne was also Earle’s fourth wife—his Richard Burton , as it were). Although the buzz around Austin is that Earle is already dating a woman who could be wife number seven, his former manager, John Dotson , says the gossips “have a fertile imagination.” But Dotson doesn’t rule out another exchange of vows: “If he finds the right person, he’ll do it. His song ‘Fearless Heart’ says a lot about his approach.”

Set in Her Ways

Ann Richards may be out of politics, but you can’t say she doesn’t care about current events. This summer, when the ex-governor was renovating her new condo in Austin’s chic Clarksville neighborhood—in a complex whose residents include U.S. congressman Lloyd Doggett and actor Lukas Haas —she had a special request: Wire the bathroom for cable television. Is Richards so embarrassed by her viewing habits that she needs a place to sneak a peek? Is she a lavatory devotee of, say, The X-Files ? No, the story goes that she likes to be able to watch the morning news while she applies her makeup, so a small TV was hung from the ceiling in just the right spot over the vanity. Now that’s a cosmetic improvement.

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