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Rothko Chapel Celebrates 40 Years, 1971–2011,
in Calendar Year 2011

Programs and Activities Celebrate the Chapel’s Mission as a Sacred Space Dedicated to Art, Contemplation, and Action

Artists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, Founders Dominique and John de Menil Remembered with Events and Programs Recalling Their Initiatives and Legacy

The Rothko Chapel, an internationally renowned intimate sanctuary formed around 14 monumental canvases by Mark Rothko, an interfaith space conceived and made possible by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, and a timeless landmark that was blessed by an international roster of religious dignitaries at its opening in 1971, will observe its 40th anniversary in calendar year 2011 with programs and events that celebrate its mission as a sacred space dedicated to art, contemplation, and action.

The visionaries who instilled the Rothko Chapel with its unique qualities—Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Dominique and John de Menil—are remembered in a year of activities dedicated to the Rothko Chapel’s enduring vocation: calling people to contemplation and inspiring them to action.

Every day, 10am to 6pm, the Rothko Chapel receives visitors from the world over who enter its doors for meditation, reflection, and immersion in the transformative power of art. Its plaza, dominated by Barnett Newman’s powerful Broken Obelisk, is alive with conversation and dialogue. Annually, the Chapel hosts over 60,000 visitors from as many as 85 countries from around the world.

“Over the next twelve months, the Rothko Chapel will mark 40 years as a touchstone for the Houston community and far beyond,” said Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, executive director. “Forty is an auspicious number in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions, and we have made particular note of that in our observance of the 40th anniversary. We begin the year with a celebration of the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a re-dedication of the monumental Barnett Newman sculpture that the de Menils so courageously dedicated to the slain civil rights leader. Throughout the year programs will recognize the Chapel’s founders and their legacy that brings together the powerful forces of great art, contemplation, and action.”

In its 40 years, the Chapel has achieved recognition as one of the greatest artistic achievements of the second half of the twentieth century. In 2001 the Chapel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Chapel regularly makes top ten lists of places to visit, and is a featured entry in National Geographic’s Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations, published in 2009. Locally, the Chapel has received numerous awards, including the Peace Award from The Houston Baha’í Community (1998), a Community Award from the Museum District Business Alliance (2000), The James L. Tucker Interfaith Award from Interfaith Ministries (2004), an Urban Greenery Award from The Park People (2005), and recognitions from the Houston Peace and Justice Center (2008).

For the last 39 years, the Chapel has provided diverse programs to engage audiences intellectually, artistically, and spiritually. The institution has distinguished itself by addressing issues and concerns before they were generally recognized and popularized. It has stressed the importance of human rights by issuing awards to exceptional individuals or groups of people not generally well known who have distinguished themselves by their courage and integrity. Events at the Rothko Chapel have brought leaders, heroes, artists, musicians, scientists, and scholars from all over the world such as Jonas Salk, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Steve Reich, President Jimmy Carter, Rigoberta Menchú, Amiri Baraka, Nelofer Pazira, and Mustafa Bargouthi.

In 1981, institution initiated “The Rothko Chapel Awards to Commitment to Truth and Freedom." In 1986, a second award was established to honor and emulate the spirit of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered on March 24, 1980. These Rothko Chapel Awards have recognized individuals and organizations who, at great risk, denounce violations of human rights. The Chapel has become a rallying place for people concerned with peace, freedom, and social justice throughout the world and a gateway for global compassion.

During its 40th anniversary year the Rothko Chapel will be open every day of the year to visitors who want to experience its silent meditative beauty and will also be alive with programs and ceremonies.

In 2011, the Rothko Chapel is pleased to present the following programs. Unless otherwise noted, all programs are in the Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon Street and are free and open to the public.


Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Renewing the Chapel’s Spiritual Vocation through 40 Days of Silent Meditation

The Rothko Chapel and The Transformative Power of Art,
A Series

Music for Rothko

Music for Peace

Spirit Matters: A Series Exploring Identity, Religion and Human Rights

Summer Music Series

40th Anniversary Lecture
(Fall 2011)

Oscar Romero Award for Human Rights (Fall 2011)

Conversation about Barnett Newman with Carol Mancusi-Ungaro

Through the Lens: The Early Days of the Rothko Chapel as Seen by Francois de Menil