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Sylvia Hougland, Dallas Arts Activist, Has Died

by Anne Bothwell 27 Jun 2017 3:33 PM

Services are Saturday at the Nasher. Wear red lipstick!


Services for Sylvia Hougland will be held Saturday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Nasher Sculpture Center. The family suggests wearing red lipstick – in her honor.

Hougland died Monday of cancer.  She was 78. She was an omnivorous kind of arts person. You might find her anywhere: leading tours at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, checking out a gallery show in Exposition Park, milling in the lobby before a TITAS dance performance.

She had served on the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission since 2011, and was Vice Chair at the time of her death, making her more omnivorous than most. Even a widely varied arts diet rarely includes city planning meetings.

Hougland was born in San Francisco. Her master’s degree from UCLA was in gerontology, which was the focus of her career. She served as Kansas state’s Secretary on Aging until she and her husband, Curtis Rives Hougland, moved their family to Dallas in 1987. The Houglands wound up buying, running, then selling a manufacturing firm.

“She was always interested in the arts, but in the 15 or 20 years after they sold the business, her passion was boundless,” says their daughter, Kim Jackson. “She took up painting, she took up sculpting, she joined boards, she went to the symphony. She loved dance, particularly.”

Jackson is hard-pressed to come up with an art form her mother wasn’t passionate about.

“I think – maybe she didn’t love musicals.”

Her parents’ 50-year love affair was a classic case of opposites attract, Jackson says. He was tall, she was short; she was an extrovert; he was an introvert. “They were just so very different,” she says.

Curtis Hougland died in 2011, shortly after the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary with a three-day blow-out party in the Berkshires.

“When my dad died, her passion for the arts just grew and grew and grew,” says Jackson. “She thought she could make a difference for the city of Dallas. She cared about diversity, about public art, making sure smaller arts groups were funded.”

Over the years, in addition to her work on the Cultural Affairs Commission, she served on the boards of TITAS, Dallas Black Dance Theater and the Friends of the Bath House Cultural Center. She was a patron of the Nasher Sculpture Center and a docent at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth.  Most recently, she led the board of Make Art With Purpose, a Dallas-based group that leads and curates projects around the world aimed at social transformation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to The Sylvia Hougland Make Art With Purpose Artist’s Fund.

In addition to Jackson, Hougland is survived by her sister, Carla Barrett of Los Angeles; her son, Curtis Rives Hougland, of New York; and three grandchildren: Madeline Rives Jackson, Samuel William Jackson and Oliver Rives Hougland.

Sylvia Hougland

Sylvia Hougland. Photo: Kevin Todora