During Peter Marzio’s 28-year tenure, the museum’s collections grew from 13,000 artworks to 62,172. Attendance soared from 380,000 to over 2 million a year. Exhibitions proliferated, and grew from 26 in 1983 to 41 in 2009. But these remarkable statistics cannot convey the institution’s exciting chemistry and interaction of ideas, programs and people that Peter Marzio inspired.
His vision and leadership brought extraordinary, diverse, and original exhibitions to Houston. They included Treasures from the Shanghai Museum; Fresh Paint: The Houston School; Frederick Remington, The Masterworks; Rediscovering Pompeii; The Quilts of Gee’s Bend; Splendor of Ancient Egypt; Jewels of the Romanoffs; History of Japanese Photography; The Heroic Century: The Museum of Modern Art Masterpieces; Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America; The Peter Blum Edition Archive, 1980–1994; Masterpieces of French Painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul; Old Masters, Impressionists, and Moderns: French Masterworks from the State Pushkin Museum, Moscow; and Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria.
Peter Marzio developed a multitude of programs to serve the diverse community he loved. In 1983, he initiated Free Thursdays. In 1993, the 10-year Lila Wallace educational program, A Place for All People, was launched. It was followed by the Wallace Gateway to Art/De Puertas al Arte 2004–2008 program for the Latin American communities and collections. As an educator of the first order, Peter Marzio was most proud of the museum’s outreach to schools, the Kinder Foundation Education Center; the Kilroy Education Center for Bayou Bend; and the Glassell School of Art.
Major collections came to the museum during Peter Marzio’s tenure: the Audrey Jones Beck Collection; the Harris and Carroll Masterson house museum, Rienzi; the Caroline Wiess Law Collection; and the Glassell Gold Collections. Under his direction, an unprecedented partnership was forged with the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation. Cornelia Long, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, described him: “Peter was a visionary leader. He believed the museum was a place for all people and worked tirelessly to make the collection accessible and the educational and exhibition schedules exciting. He embraced diversity and the public. The trustees of the MFAH will continue to do so as well.”
Peter Marzio died a proud Houstonian whose legacy will enhance the lives of generations to come. A memorial, to be announced at a future date, will be held at the museum to celebrate his 28 years as Director of the MFAH.