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Garth’s passion for the arts inspires regents’ scholarship

garthA passion for music and the visual arts will result in a permanent legacy for Southeast Texas arts patron Mary Jane Garth – a gift that will enrich the lives and cultivate the talents of students at Lamar University.

The Mary Jane Garth Regents’ Scholarship has been established in the Lamar University Foundation to benefit undergraduates majoring in music or art at Lamar University, President James Simmons announced.

“I am thrilled to think that I can be part of changing the lives of Lamar students for many years to come,” Garth said. “I have often pondered how I could best support the arts and music at Lamar, and I feel that this scholarship is something that will provide support for deserving students who may become our future leaders.

“This scholarship will enable the university to select and support the most deserving students who otherwise might not be able to continue their education,” said Garth, who said she selected art and music for the scholarships because “these are my passions.”

Garth was born in Houston, where she attended Rice University. While a student there, she met Tyrrell Garth and moved to Beaumont, where the couple raised their children, Terry, Harriet and David. In 1966, Mary Jane moved to Aspen, Colo., where she lived for more than 40 years on the Aspen Valley Ranch, which she owned and managed.

She returned to Beaumont seven years ago, and her entrepreneurial spirit has inspired her to continue to give many volunteer hours to the community, along with her generous charitable support of many deserving organizations. Recognized for her work with the Art Museum of Southeast Texas and the Symphony of Southeast Texas, Garth has created a scholarship endowment that continues this spirit of cultural enrichment.

“This scholarship will have an impact on the lives of Lamar art and music students for generations to come,” said Camille Mouton, vice president for university advancement. “It is a meaningful gift to the university from someone like Mary Jane Garth, who has had such an impact on the arts in Southeast Texas. It is a wonderful legacy for her.”

The Art Museum of Southeast Texas honored Mary Jane Garth – “Beaumont’s Master Patroness of the Arts” – at its 2011 ARTopia party. The Southeast Texas Arts Council recently named her the Outstanding Patron of the Arts for 2011.

“Mary Jane Garth is a true patron of the arts. We are so fortunate that she has returned to our community,” said Russ Schultz, dean of Lamar’s College of Fine Arts and Communication.

“One of her most wonderful traits is her desire to share with people the excitement of art by showing her extraordinary collection of paintings that adorn her home. She remains actively involved as a trustee for the Symphony of Southeast Texas, as well as the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. In all these roles, she has elevated the level of culture and quality of life in our community. This wonderful scholarship gift will make possible the pursuit of a career in the arts for someone who might otherwise not have been able to afford collegiate study.”

Mouton said one of the things she most admires about Garth is that she became very involved in the community in a short period of time after returning to Beaumont.

“A vibrant cultural environment provides a better quality of life to the community and provides the opportunity to attract new businesses and residents,” Garth said. “Art enriches the lives of people in all communities.”

During her time in Aspen, Garth was actively involved in many business and charitable activities, including local museums, the Episcopal Church and the Aspen Hospital. During the late 1960s, she became an integral part of the Aspen art community, where she met and actively dealt with young New York artists who were creating a new genre of modern pop art.

“I had a very dear friend who introduced me to some of the up-and-coming young artists and their work. This became the starting point of my love for art,” Garth said.

She subsequently became a founding member of the Anderson Ranch Art Center, president of the Aspen Art Museum and a supporter in the Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Garth was also a significant supporter and commercial dealer of the arts in Aspen and New York City for many years. She has traveled the world searching for special works of art and has accumulated an outstanding collection of international modern and pop art, which is displayed in her Beaumont home.

“My passion for contemporary art began as a collector and evolved into a business as I bought, sold and traded art work. I continue to sell some of my collection by more established artists and to invest in young artists,” Garth said.

“My participation in the Aspen art community, as well as other philanthropic organizations, was such a big part of my life that I wanted to continue my support after I relocated to Beaumont.”

The art and music departments at Lamar, the Symphony of Southeast Texas and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas have particular appeal to her because of their education and mentoring programs and visual and audio presentations, Garth said.

Now, the Mary Jane Garth Regents’ Scholarship will turn her passion into a legacy.