Spring Branch ISD Featured News

Celebrating a Community Treasure: The Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum's 20th Anniversary



A birthday celebration at the museum

This year marks a special occasion as the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum (AYAM) in Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) celebrates its twentieth anniversary. In honor of this milestone, AYAM will showcase a curated collection of artworks by its namesake, Altharetta Yeargin, who also held the distinction of being SBISD's first full-time art teacher.

Additionally, district art teachers are contributing their own creations to a special exhibition hosted within the museum, running from June 1 to July 31. Proceeds from artwork sales will directly support museum programming. Join us as we celebrate twenty years of artistic legacy and community enrichment at AYAM.

Where it began

The concept of establishing a museum took root long before its official inception in 2004. Back in 1975 during the tenure of Superintendent Dr. Bradley, former SBISD art teacher Altharetta Yeargin generously donated to SBISD her extensive collection of sculptures and cultural artifacts from around the world to SBISD, . This unique collection found a home at Memorial Middle School.

As the museum grew, the community rallied behind the initiative, contributing works from private collections. Notable names such as Dr. Edward Heyne, who donated several oil paintings and pre-Columbian ceramic artifacts, and Mae Cassard, who contributed pre-Columbian artifacts, joined the community initiative. Esteemed Texas Artist and Educator at Texas Southern University, Dr. John Biggers, also made significant contributions, including several large lithographs.

With the influx of donations from community members, the collection outgrew its original home at MMS. The establishment of Westchester Academy of International Studies at the former Westchester High School presented an opportunity to provide a dedicated space for the growing art collection. In 1999, Visual Arts Coordinator Gloria McCoy proposed the idea of utilizing a space on the north side of the Westchester campus to the Board of Trustees, which was met with approval.

The museum took a leap forward with a transformative donation of $600,000 from the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. These enabled architects involved in refurbishing the WAIS campus to collaborate with the Smithsonian Institution, resulting in the creation of a state-of-the-art museum in the heart of SBISD.

With the hiring of a curator and an assistant, the museum was named in honor of Altharetta Yeargin, celebrating her invaluable contributions. Today, her collection and legacy continue to shape the SBISD community through museum programming tailored to serve SBISD students.

What to expect

The AYAM includes three main galleries of display cases and hanging art, a large studio space where art classes are held, a small auditorium space for presentations — called The Kiva — and a vault for storing artworks. The AYAM is a regular fine arts field trip stop for SBISD second graders scheduled throughout the school year.

“When kids come, I like seeing them relate the art to their personal lives…seeing art from their personal culture,” said Mary Taveras, curator at AYAM. Due to the wide-ranging travels of Ms. Yeargin, the multicultural displays of items from her collection expose visitors to art, ceremonial implements, and tools not part of their daily routines in Houston, Texas!



“The didgeridoo, the tools, utensils, the scary masks, and the kimono really stand out,” said Dana Wade, curator at AYAM. “To me, the Peruvian Arperilla [hand-sewn applique] stands out because of the story. They are made by the women of Peru. There was a lot of political unrest during the time when the men ‘disappeared.’ The women would tell their stories through needlework.”

To promote creative thinking and problem-solving in very young children, museum staff also visit kindergarten and first-grade classrooms across the district to lead art projects.

Come for a visit, join in the fun

Throughout the year, the museum curates traveling exhibitions, providing the community with enriching experiences. In 2022, it hosted photographer Helen Glazer's exhibition, featuring her unique photo-based sculptures inspired by intricate natural forms. The Antarctica Show mesmerized visitors, including Art 2 students from Spring Forest Middle School, who found inspiration during their field trip.

Looking ahead to next summer in 2025, AYAM will host the exhibition, Small Wonders: Insects in Focus, showcasing mesmerizing macro photography. Visitors will have the opportunity to witness larger-than-life views of real insects and explore the intricate beauty of these tiny creatures.

Community members are encourage to plan a visit to AYAM throughout June and July to enjoy the exhibitions and explore our remarkable permanent collection. AYAM’s Tall Tales & Art summer program offers nine days of creative exploration in June for children aged four to eleven, accompanied by a parent or supervising adult. Each session combines story time with engaging hands-on activities. Admission is $5 per child per session.



AYAM also offers traveling art experiences called Road Shows for SBISD Kindergarten and First Grade classes. These interactive sessions focus on museum artifacts and are often accompanied by exciting art activities that complement classroom learning objectives.

SBISD teachers also have the opportunity to borrow "museum teaching boxes" from AYAM, each containing real artifacts and replicas for classroom exploration. Teachers can directly check out these resources from our dedicated curators at AYAM.

Family art classes are offered the last Saturday of each month throughout the year, at a cost of $5 per participant. Adult workshops also take place frequently in the museum’s art classroom. They are free to museum members and are open to the public for $10 per person.

Tours of the AYAM collection can be arranged in advance by contacting Mary Taveras at 713-251-2000. Detailed directions to the museum entrance are available here.

A birthday celebration

A private reception for museum benefactors and patrons, as well as students and teachers, will be held on June 1, to celebrate the AYAM's 20th birthday and kick off the teacher art show. If you've experienced the impact of art at AYAM, you’re invited to join in the celebration! The festivities will take place from 2pm to 4pm.

“Our art teachers will be selling their artwork, with 50 percent of the proceeds going back into museum programming,” said Lindsay Ripley, Visual Arts Coordinator in SBISD. “It should be a fun event with a large impact on our local art community!”



Help keep the museum going for more birthdays to come

While SBISD provides the space and maintains the AYAM facility, the museum’s operations and programming depend on funding from donations and grants. Consider joining or donating by following these steps. Community members interested in donating artwork can contact the museum. You can also donate supplies needed for children’s art projects such as cardboard egg cartons, water bottles, sea shell, and shoe boxes.

AYAM curators Wade and Taveras both look forward to involving more community members from Spring Branch and beyond in what the museum has to offer. “I’d like to continue to grow the programs and involve more of the community to promote cultural understandings between groups of people,” said Wade.

Happy birthday, AYAM! Here’s to many more!

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🎉 Get ready to celebrate 20 years of AYAM! 🖼️✨ Join us on June 1 for an unforgettable birthday bash honoring the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum. Explore a special curated collection and creations by our district's talented art teachers. Don't miss the reception from 2PM to 4PM! Let's make this milestone to remember! 🎂🎨 #AYAM20 #SBISDProud