UHCL Art Gallery, Bayou Theater debuts cultural arts director
University of Houston-Clear Lake has named Eric Despard as its new director of Theater and Cultural Arts beginning Feb. 3, 2020. Despard will oversee the university's Bayou Theater, its Art Gallery, as well as cultural arts educational programming at both UH-Clear Lake and UHCL Pearland. He has spent his 30-year career as a professional musician, a professor of music and art, and the director of both a community music school and university cultural arts programs.
Despard said that during the interview process, he could immediately see himself in the job. "When I was applying, UH-Clear Lake was very attractive to me. Everything about the position was what I was looking for," he said. "The search committee was extraordinary and the students, faculty, staff and administration were extremely welcoming."
He had pursued visual arts through high school and planned to attend art school, but after playing guitar in various heavy metal and rock bands, he received a full scholarship to the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford at age 16. "That's what decided my career between the visual and musical arts," he said.
He added that he was a proud first-generation college graduate. "I saw that UHCL had a lot of first-gen students and knew immediately this university was a good match for me," he said. "I feel that mentoring first-gen students is a way I can give back."
After receiving his Bachelor of Music from University of Hartford, he went on to receive his Master of Music from Yale University.
"I'm imagining ways to expand current programs at UHCL and find opportunities to create new programs. I love working with the community," he said.
His previous institution, Despard said, had divisions that were similar UHCL's colleges, and during his time there, he developed programs across many disciplines. "I plan to do that at UHCL as well," he said. "For example, I'm committed to bringing programming that would relate to students with majors in not just the humanities, but, also in business, education, science and engineering, It's also a great chance to collaborate with faculty to find ways to bring the arts into their classrooms."
His first priority is to meet as many people as possible and find out what the theater's priorities are. "I'm excited to meet with students, faculty, staff and community leaders to find out what they want both internally on campus and externally in the greater Bay Area."
Despard said he plans to also apply a multidisciplinary approach to the activities in the UHCL Art Gallery. "I'll evaluate the public art on the UHCL campus, and work to ensure the Art Gallery becomes the center of new ideas innovation, object-based learning, and opportunities to understand art in context and how it relates to students' specific disciplines," he said.
In addition to his administrative work, Despard is an active performer, composer, and champion of new music. His group the Progression Ensemble has commissioned and premiered over 20 pieces by national and international composers.
Learn more about the Bayou Theater online.