Harvey Aftermath: How Art Institutions can Respond

What Harvey can Teach Us

Hurricane Harvey | Preparing for Hurricane Season | Artist Daily
Flooded street caused by Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 31, 2017, in Port Arthur, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane, was the worst storm on record to hit the Houston region of Texas in about 50 years. Wreaking havoc for five days, Harvey first made landfall late on Aug. 25, near the Texas Gulf Coast.

On Aug. 26, The Weather Company reports, Harvey’s center of circulation stalled over South Texas, going back into the Gulf of Mexico before making its final landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 30.

Hurricane Harvey has caused catastrophic devastation and flooding in Southeast Texas and along the Gulf Coast. And now, Florida is bracing for possible impact from Irma this weekend, which has strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane.

With hurricane season in full swing, how can artists and museums address water damage to paintings? Read helpful tips provided by The Museum of Modern Art following Hurricane Sandy here.

What’s more, learning about how museums around the regions hit hardest by Harvey are dealing with the aftermath can help organizations in other areas better prepare for future storms. In an article by HuffPost, art institutions in Texas share how they prepared for Harvey.

The Galveston Arts Center

Located in Galveston, Texas, the Galveston Arts Center provides contemporary art and educational programming. When news of Hurricane Harvey touching down in Texas made headlines, the center was preparing for a new opening on Aug. 26.

Two days before Harvey made landfall, the staff decided to pack up the art and move it to storage on Wednesday, Aug. 23, writes Reese Darby, who does marketing for GAC, to HuffPost.

“The building was originally a bank built in 1886, and we still retain three bank vaults which we use for storage. Items from ArtWorks, the museum store, were also stored in the vaults for safekeeping,” Darby adds.

And with the buildings’ 130+ history, it has had to prepare for natural disasters in the past, reports HuffPost. One such occurrence was the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S., the 1900 Galveston hurricane.

“Bryan Garcia, our head of operations, and our current Board President Doug McClean also have systems in place to board up the windows and building, and secure and package exhibiting artworks, in case a hurricane touches down on the Island,” continues Darby in the article. “We are a small staff of five, plus our board president, who are all dedicated to the security, safety and future of our organization.”

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Although CAMH has experienced damage from natural disasters in the past — such as nine feet of flooding in its lower level following a storm in 1976, and then again in 2001 with three feet of flooding due to Tropical Storm Allusion — the museum appears to have come away unscathed from Harvey.

As of last Wednesday, Christina Brundgardt, CAMH deputy director, reported to HuffPost that the museum did not appear to have experienced any flooding. But, museum staff members are currently investigating the possibility of structural damage.

“We have a wonderful crew who prepared the museum and continued to monitor it during the storm,” states Brungardt in the article. “The building was braced for flooding with water barriers and sandbags. In addition, our registrar’s team de-installed our downstairs exhibition and moved it to the upstairs space.”

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston | Houston, Texas | CAMH | Artist Daily
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, or CAMH. (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith  / Buyenlarge / Getty Images)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

To secure the buildings, MFAH’s hurricane-preparedness team executed all of its storm-planning protocols. Mary Haus, the head of marketing and communications for the museum, explains in the article what these measures were.

“These are protocols we have long had in place, including sandbags, stationing emergency water pumps, floodgate activation for the buildings and the stationing of a 24/7 emergency team on site at the main campus to monitor everything for the duration of the storm. That team includes engineers, art handlers, IT and other staff,” notes Haus. “As part of advance planning, works of art that were in a potentially vulnerable location, such as by a window or under a skylight, were moved as needed.”

To the best of her knowledge, no damage has been reported to any of MFAH’s artworks, notes Haus.

Rockport Center for the Arts

The Rockport Center for the Arts, located near Corpus Christi, wasn’t as lucky as MFAH. The executive director for the center, Luis Purón, noted it had sustained severe damage from the storm in a Facebook message on Aug. 27.

“From images I have been provided and [third-party accounts], it appears the building has sustained serious external damage. One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised,” writes Purón in the message. “The building is still standing as it has since 1983 a few feet from Aransas Bay. It remains unclear if all the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden collection survived the 130 miles-per-hour winds of Harvey’s Category 4 direct impact to Rockport. We won’t know about internal damage until we are able to re-enter and inspect the building. The timeline for that is uncertain.”

Despite the devastation of the center, Purón shares this hopeful message in a follow-up post on Aug. 29: “Art has the power to heal. One of my immediate goals is to provide a constructive and creative outlet for our community during this challenging time. United, anything is possible. United we can.”

Hurricane Harvey Resources

Hurricane Harvey | Preparing for Hurricane Season | Artist Daily
Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by Getty Images)

For those of you looking for ways to help support the arts in Texas, or searching for help, here are a few key resources:

For more information on how to help all victims of Hurricane Harvey, here is a list of responding organizations.

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