This is a short history of the O’Kane Gallery, written just before the current curator of the gallery, Mark Cervenka, took the position. This history covers 1967 (when the South Texas Junior College moved to One Main) until 1998.
The O’Kane Gallery, recently relocated to the south area of the third floor at One Main Street, traces its beginnings to the late 1960’s. A small art gallery was sponsored and maintained by the South Texas Junior College Humanities Department in the area now occupied by the UH-Downtown Police Office. At that time, STJC also had a small theater with a proscenium stage on the tenth floor. The theater proved to be inadequate and was demolished in order to remodel the tenth floor for rental purposes.
A committee of Nicholas Franks (then Chairman of the Department of Humanities), Marvin Suits (then Business Manager), and Ross W. Toole (then Dean of the College), consulted with Dr. W.I. Dykes (President of STJC) and presented the need for an art gallery and a theater. A bequest to STJC by Harry O’Kane (Athletic Director and dean of Students, 1949 – 1967) had not been expended for want of a suitable project; an additional bequest of $5000 became available following the death of Mary Bingman (an English instructor at STJC, 1966-1970). Dr. Dykes approved the use of these funds toward a gallery/theater project. A plan was presented to the Humphreys Foundation, and Trustees John S. Boles and John M. Winterbotham visited STJC to view the proposed site on the third floor. They, together with Trustee J.C. Bertman, Jr., approved the plan and provided the additional funds for the facilities in which art and drama activities could enrich and broaden the educational experience of students and serve as a cultural center for the downtown area and its service communities. The gallery/theater was named for Harry W. O’Kane, memorializing the impact of his warm personality upon the students and faculty of STJC.
From 1976 – 77, Floyd Newsum, currently Professor of Art at UHD, directed the Gallery, followed by Mrs. Veta Winick from 1977 – 95. Since 1995, Mrs. Ann Trask has developed the gallery as a focal point for art exhibits and activities which mirror the campus and the city’s vitality and ethnic diversity.