2022–2023 CAM Legacy Award

Art Collector and Curator Murray Smither Receives 2022–2023 CAM Legacy Award

March 10, 2023

CAM Media Contact: Jackie Swan

Kirk Hopper and Murray Smither Image
Murray Smither (right) sharing some of the art he's collected over the years with Kirk Hopper, including an Oil Derrick sculpture (center) by late artist George W. White Jr. (1903-1970). Photo courtesy of Kirk Hopper Gallery.

The College of Arts & Media has named Edward Murray Smither as the recipient of the 2022–2023 Legacy Award in celebration of his career accomplishments and commitment to a life of service in support of the arts.  

Murray Smither is a native of Huntsville and received his Bachelor of Science in journalism from SHSU in 1958. After graduating, he moved to Dallas, Texas where he made a significant impact on culture as a gallerist exhibiting contemporary art.

Drawing by Vernon Fisher Image
"Murray" by artist Vernon Fisher gifted to Murray Smither.

Smither managed and owned or co-owned several Dallas galleries in the 1960s through the 1980s and subsequently was an independent art consultant and appraiser. His galleries introduced internationally recognized contemporary artists to Dallas audiences. He also represented Texas artists, including Vernon Fisher, Bill Haveron, and SHSU alumni James Surls and Lee Baxter Davis, providing them national exposure early in their careers as they rose to prominence. Smither’s work and reputation helped regional Texas artists and collectors become recognized and participate in the international art world.

While he was building his career in Dallas, Smither continued to be involved with art in his hometown. In 1964, along with several SHSU art professors, Smither was invited to judge an exhibit of prison art in Huntsville. He noticed the work of Frank Jones who was making drawings using discarded red and blue bookkeeping pencils. At Smither’s insistence, Jones was awarded best of show. Smither purchased Jones’ work, began a friendship with him, and promoted his work. As a result of Smither’s support, Jones rose to international prominence as a self-taught artist, and his works have become highly valued. Smither championed the work of several other Texas self-taught artists resulting in their national and international recognition. 

Self Portrait Murray Smither Image
Self portrait by Murray Smither.

One of the artists who was represented by Smither’s Dallas galleries is the American artist Richard Haas, known for his architectural murals in cities across the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Smither introduced Haas to Huntsville while giving him a tour of county courthouses in Texas. Haas was subsequently commissioned to paint 14 murals on buildings in Huntsville to revitalize and beautify the downtown courthouse square. 

When the Wynne Home Arts Center opened in Huntsville in 2006, Smither was appointed to the gallery committee. He attended regular meetings in Huntsville and provided professional leadership and expertise in exhibition programming and design until he stepped down in 2021.  

In addition to his service to the Wynne Home Arts Center in Huntsville, Smither served on the Art in Public Places Advisory Committee to the Dallas City Council, advisor to the Artist’s Eye Program of the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, the art committee for the DART Design Program for the City of Dallas, the advisory council for the Emergency Artists Support League of Dallas, and the advisory board of the Pollock Gallery at Southern Methodist University. He is also the recipient of the Dallas Visual Art Center’s 1998 Legend Award.

Frank Jones Work Image
"Untitled Devil House," a drawing by Frank Jones acquired for SHSU's Texas Art Collection in honor of Murray Smither.

Murray Smither’s lifelong engagement with art and artists has made a significant impact on local and global culture. The SHSU College of Arts & Media is proud to honor him with this Legacy Award. He joins a list of distinguished innovators and leaders who live a life of service and work to build bridges for our students to follow.

A drawing by Frank Jones has been acquired for SHSU’s Texas Art Collection to honor Murray Smither and mark this announcement. Gifts to support this award can be made online to the College of Arts & Media in honor of Murray Smither.