Details for John Thomas Biggers

Historical Marker — Atlas Number 5507017213


Marker Number 17213
Atlas Number 5507017213
Marker Title John Thomas Biggers
Index Entry Biggers, John Thomas
Address 3100 Cleburne
City Houston
County Harris
UTM Zone 15
UTM Easting 271405
UTM Northing 3290616
Subject Codes artistis; educational topics
Marker Year 2012
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark No
Private Property No
Marker Location Texas Southern University, west entrance to John T. Biggers Art Center (facing Cleburne Street)
Marker Condition In Situ
Marker Size 27" x 42" with post
Marker Text (April 13, 1924 – January 25, 2001) John Thomas Biggers was born to Paul and Cora Biggers in Gastonia, North Carolina. His artistic creativity emerged at a young age when he and his brother, Joe, crawled under their home and used clay to model the entire town of Gastonia. In 1941, Biggers enrolled at Hampton Institute (later Hampton University) in Virginia, intending to become a heating engineer. Instead he came under the artistic instruction of Viktor Lowenfeld, an Austrian Jew, and Biggers changed his major to art. His education was interrupted by service in the Navy, 1943-1945. The next year, he followed his teacher and mentor, Lowenfeld, to Pennsylvania State University, where Biggers earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. In 1949, Biggers and his wife, Hazel Hales Biggers, moved to Houston when he became head of a new art department at Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University). Biggers nurtured his students’ artistic talents and required them to create murals on the walls of Hannah Hall. In 1957, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gave him a grant to study and travel in Africa, an award that inspired future artistic works such as his renowned Web of Life mural. Throughout his career, Biggers won numerous awards for his own art, which portrayed “the spirit and style of the negro people.” However, Jim Crow laws excluding African Americans from many institutions sometimes kept Biggers from receiving his own accolades. Ultimately, the artist was the subject of a major national retrospective and his art is included in major museum collections. Although Biggers passed away in 2001, his legacy lives on through his art and his students’ murals. (2012)

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