It’s one of the most charismatic spots in the city — the Long Center City Terrace.
From the day that the performing arts center opened in 2008 — that’s right, almost 10 years ago — the semi-circular procession of columns left over from the old Palmer Auditorium made a powerful people magnet.
The view of the downtown skyline is priceless, even after the addition of some south shore buildings that cut off the view to the east. Instantly, everyone needed portraits on that terrace. Festivals and concerts followed. Pre-show, intermission and after-show crowds lingered there above a grassy hill.
So a naming opportunity for the terrace, right? H-E-B, one of the most munificent corporate citizens in Texas, has stepped up to the plate with five-year naming agreement for an undisclosed amount of money. Say hello to the H-E-B Terrace.
The name change will be made official at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 24, to be followed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. by a free holiday event dubbed “Santa on the Terrace.”
“Our collaboration with H-E-B has been very valuable to the Long Center and the city of Austin,” says Cory Baker, president and CEO of the center. “Their dedication to the community and to providing access to the arts is something we both feel passionately about.”
“We are thrilled to be able to strengthen our partnership with the Long Center as we share in the belief that arts are an integral part of building a strong community, understanding our diversity, preserving our history, and building our future,” says Jeff Thomas, H-E-B senior vice-president and general manager for the Central Texas region. “The H-E-B Terrace is the ideal community gathering place for these beliefs to intersect – it is the heart of the Austin arts district and welcomes everyone to experience art in a public way.”
The organized arts and humanities generally don’t save lives directly during emergency situations. Yet they save our culture — our shared memory — over the long run. Here are some ways the state and national communities are responding to Harvey and where the help will be most needed.
The National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Texas Commission on the Arts to assess the situation. NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu: “As the current situation stabilizes, the NEA is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”
The Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working to coordinate a response for the affected library community.
While some smaller arts facilities have been devastated on the coast (see image from Rockport), the massive Houston Theatre District has sustained enormous damage, as it has in previous storms (much of it was built underground not far from Buffalo Bayou).
At the Alley Theatre, the small Neuhaus Theatre and its lobby were flooded. The same spaces were severely beat up during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
The Wortham Theatre Center, where Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet perform, took water on the Brown Theatre stage and out front of the house. The basement with its costume and prop storage, however, was totally flooded.
On the other hand, the Hobby Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, came off relatively unscathed, although the parking garages were inundated.
Two barnlike stone structures once stood abandoned in South Austin. One rested on a hill with a view of the city; the other, located farther south, spread out on lush flats near a creek and railroad tracks.
Separately in the 1950s, these old buildings were transformed into residences and studios by important Austin artists who were friends — until they were not.
Miraculously, both these partially modernist but stubbornly rustic retreats have been preserved, one in private hands, the other in public. While their separate histories have been told, their connections are still being made.
The onetime friends were sculptor Charles Umlauf and muralist Seymour Fogel.
Umlauf, who died in 1994, was a longtime University of Texas teacher and a prolific maker of flowing figures, many of which can be spotted all over town. He is best known these days as the namesake of and chief artistic contributor to the city-owned Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, just east of Zilker Park. Others remember him as the artistic mentor of late actress Farrah Fawcett while she studied at UT.
Fogel, who left Austin in 1959 and died in 1984, is less well remembered locally, despite his cultlike status among fans of midcentury modern Texas art. Perhaps his most visible legacy in Austin is the gorgeously preserved large mural inside the Starr Building, originally home to the American National Bank, now smartly occupied by the McGarrah Jesse marketing agency at 121 W. Sixth St. …
One of the most beautiful and compelling books to come out of Austin in many a year is “The Collections,” an encyclopedic account of the 170 million artifacts preserved by the University of Texas.
It’s a big one. The doorstop, released in January 2016, comes in at 720 oversized pages. I’ve browsed through it incessantly and have cooked up some tasty stories from its contents, derived from more than 80 collections of art and artifacts over a wide range of subjects.
“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s public art program, Landmarks. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”
Bober conceived this survey and organized more than 350 individuals to lend their expertise. She’s an enormous asset to the university, to say the least.
“The extraordinary, long-term loans — no end dates have been announced — were arranged by the Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy with help from a $1.1 million grant from the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation. Family-friendly activities are scheduled for the Waller Creek site from 10 a.m. to noon June 3.
“This project taps into one of my greatest passions — bringing art directly to the public in ways and in places that they may not expect it,” said Louis Grachos, director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin. “When I started at the Contemporary, I spoke of creating a ‘Museum Without Walls,’ and these projects with Ai Weiwei are exactly what I dreamed of bringing to Austin: works that inspire wonder while addressing important social and political issues that affect us all.”
The Waller Creek Conservancy has announced its 2017 line-up for the light-based “Creek Show.” Now in its fourth year, the jam of artworks employs the spacey spaces of the creek bed and banks to illuminate its potential as a destination park. The family-friendly sequence will run Nov. 10-18.
Here go the artists and their planned art:
“No Lifeguard on Duty” by Asakura Robinson
“Fotan Fable” by HA Architecture
“Night Garden” by dwg
“Ephemeral Suspension” by Pathos + TouchTo
“Blind Spot” by Two+ Collaborative
“Submerge” by Davey McEarthron Architecture + Studio Lumina + Drophouse
That’s the essential question that “Shape the Conversation” asks. The three-part exhibit, which is housed in a pop-up gallery on West Second Street and at the University of Texas School of Architecture, has its roots in a national survey of architects that came out of San Francisco and a follow up exhibit in Houston.
In 2011, a committee at the San Francisco chapter of American Institute of Architects conducted a survey of architects and found that the people coming out of architecture schools were equally male and female, but only 18 percent of the licensed architects were female. The project to figure out why that was was called “The Missing 32 Percent.”
The Houston chapter of AIA helped to answer the above question by celebrating the work of women in its 2013 exhibit “Women in Architecture: 1850 to the Future.” Architects from around Texas saw the exhibit as part of the statewide convention that year. “We were all talking about it,” says Austinite Wendy Dunnam Tita, the committee chair of Women in Architecture and its “Shape the Conversation” and a principal at Page architecture firm. “It rippled through the convention. Have you been to the exhibit yet?”
She knew she wanted to get the exhibit in Austin.
She set about not only figuring out how to get the exhibit here, finding a place to fit the 80-foot-long exhibit as well as discovering how women were playing a role in architecture in Austin.
Once the committee gave up trying to find an 80-foot-long wall, like it had been displayed on in Houston, the members realized they could find a pop-up shop and wrap it around the walls of the space. The exhibit is three-dimensional squares with photos and text on them that pop out of the wall. A fuchsia band of paint ties the squares together as it winds around corners. Large white numbers tell you what decade you’re in. The exhibit, which was updated to 2015, is meant to begin at the year 2015 and go backward to 1850. Each decade features meaningful quotes about working as a woman in architecture as well as highlighting firsts, recognizing defining projects and notable female architects.
Ray Eames is there with her “Eames Molded Plywood Chair,” which became iconic of the Mid-century Modern style, as is Maya Lin, a student at Yale University who won a national design competition in 1981 for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Natalie De Blois is recognized for designing the headquarters of PepsiCo Headquarters and the Union Carbide Building both in New York City in 1960. Her biographer, Nathaniel Owings writes: “Her mind and hands worked marvels in design and only she and God would ever know just how many great solutions, with the imprimatur of one of the male heroes of SOM (her firm), owned much more to her than was attributed by either SOM or the client.”
Louise Blanchard Bethune is noted for being the first female member of AIA in 1898. Alice J. Hands and Mary B. Gannon, whose Gannon and Hands are recognized as starting the first female-owned architecture firm in the United States in 1894. You see old newspaper stories with headlines like “Girl Architects Organize a Firm. First of its Kind. It’s Expected to Show That Women Need Only Opportunity.”
Notable female architects give their advice, like this gem from Charlotte Perriand: “There is one thing I never did, and that was flirt. That is, I didn’t ‘dabble.’ I created and produced, and my job was important. There was mutual respect, mutual recognition.”
The exhibit also takes note of male architects who promoted women and help them break through the all-male network of apprenticeships.
It highlights a letter from Frank Lloyd Wright: “To Anyone, Anywhere: Miss Isabel Roberts was my assistant in the practice of Architecture for several years and I can recommend her without reservation to anyone requiring the services of an Architect.”
Of course, it points to sexism. Perriand was originally rejected by noted Swiss architect Le Corbusier by being told “We don’t embroider cushions here.”
Zaha Hadid, who was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, has this quote in the exhibit: “Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?”
The Women in Architecture exhibit showcases the variety and breadth of women’s contribution in creating the building blocks of today’s architecture.
AIA Austin did it’s own survey of its license architects to figure out how women have and are playing a role in our architecture. It asked respondents to identify projects that were designed by women. The results are visualized in the “Shaping Austin” part of the exhibit. On a geometrically-shaped three-dimensional map of Austin, hexagon-shaped papers jut out. Each one serves as a pin on the map with the name of the project, the address and the year completed. The result is a very full map.
“Shaping Austin” also includes a list of the 315 licensed female architects in Austin and a graph of the number of women licensed by year and a graph of the number of years in practice of Austin’s female architects.
It also graphs the projects they worked on by type of project and the square footage, as well as the role they played on those projects. From that you can see that women tended to work in residential rather than commercial projects and were project architects, project designers or project managers, but less likely to be the principal designer or lead architect.
Dunnam Tita says the goal was to “pull off the cloak of invisibility” of women in architecture in Austin.
The exhibit features an event series to facilitate conversation about the survey’s findings and about the history. Luncheon roundtable events at different firms include topics like “What’s it Been Like and Where are we Going?” and “Bragging Rights: Promoting Ourselves and Each Other.” They will also deal with the very real pull of raising a family vs. having a profession with topics like “Women in Architecture: Work/Life Balance,” “Comparing Notes on Growing as a Professional While Raising a Family” and “Life and Career After Graduation: 1, 5, and 10 Years Out.”
The conversation won’t end there. The money raised by exhibit sponsorships and donations is going to a new leadership development program designed to bring more diversity to the architecture scene here. The program will begin in 2018.
Shape the Conversation
Three exhibits highlighting the role of women in architecture.
“Women in Architecture: 1850 to the Future.” 249 W. Second St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through March 2.
“Women in Architecture: Shaping Austin.” 249 W. Second St., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through March 2.
“National Outlook, Local Stories.” Goldsmith Hall, University of Texas School of Architecture, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday through March 2.
From 6 to 10 p.m. nightly through Nov. 19, the three blocks of sunken creekside walkways between Fifth and Eighth streets are transformed by the creations of Austin architects, artists, landscape architects and designers.
There are slew of events along with ‘Creek Show,’ many of which are specifically family friendly. Check the schedule at www.creekshow.com/the-show/
All photographs are by Stephen Spillman/for American-Statesman.
The permanent canopy over the building’s rooftop deck will enable the museum to increase the programming it hosts up above the intersection of Congress Avenue and Seventh Street. With its screen the site of many film showings and its open-air space the location for many public programs, the rooftop has incurred more use than it was initially conceived for.
The Contemporary is funding with project without having to launch a public capital campaign, too. It secured a $1.3 million grant from the Moody Foundation as well donations from its board members and a low-interest bridge loan.
The renovation is designed by LTL Architects, the same designers who handled the major renovation of the 21,000-square-foot Jones Center in 2010.
The Jones Center will re-open Nov. 5 with a solo exhibition by Monika Sosnowska. The artist’s sculpture “The Stairs” is currently on view at the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria.
At sunset, an hourlong sequence of slowly changing colored LED lights illuminate the inside walls, radically yet subtly altering your perception of the heavens.
Over the course of an hour, the colors shift, saturating the space with intense and varying shades of purple, green, yellow, pink, blue. And through the aperture in the ceiling, a remarkable visual phenomena happens. The sky appears in complementary hues. Walls awash in blue make the sky look yellow. A flush of pink turns the sky green.
A recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, Turrell is a pioneer in the use of light as an artistic medium.
In naming “The Color Inside,” Turrell said: “I was thinking about what you see inside, and inside the sky, and what the sky holds within it that we don’t see the possibility of in our regular life.”
Commissioned by UT’s public art program, Landmarks, “The Color Inside” is a permanent work of art, one of several daring pieces added to the campus.
“The Color Inside” is open every day that the UT Student Activity Building is open. Start time for the evening light sequence changes daily. And if you can’t make the evening light sequence you can visit anyway. Turrell’s
Admission free but with seating limited to 25 people, reservations are recommended. turrell.utexas.edu