ICYMI: New $6 million portal for Laguna Gloria

The Contemporary Austin has raised $6 million to make the entrance to Laguna Gloria more welcoming.

The entrance to Laguna Gloria will be transformed by a $6 million welcoming project. Contributed by Reed Hilderbrand

READ MORE about the plans at our premium site MyStatesman.com.

The beloved 14-acre site, home to b’s 1916 villa and, now, the sprawling b, is set to undergo a multiphase face-lift. The first step is to break ground March 21 on a new $6 million guest-friendly entrance complex and improvements to the verges of West 35th Street.

The effort was made possible by a $3 million grant from the Moody Foundation, which recently gave $15 million to the Waller Creek Conservancy to build a performance venue in Waterloo Park and $9.7 million to the Pease Park Conservancy to improve the green space alongside Shoal Creek, considered the city’s oldest park and site for a new Stickwork sculpture off Parkway.

Get a sneak peek inside Ellsworth Kelly’s stunning ‘Austin’ at UT

The much-anticipated opening of Ellsworth Kelly‘s’ “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus, is not until Feb. 18. But now we can give you a look inside.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Designed by late American modern artist Kelly, the $23 million project created by the Blanton Museum of Art instantly takes its place as a crown jewel of Austin art.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Scroll down to see more photos, read what some people are saying about the work and to find out how you can see “Austin” for yourself once it opens.

“It will be a bold new landmark for the university and the city,” predicts Blanton director Simone Wicha, who spent years putting together “Austin,” colloquially known as the “Ellsworth Kelly Building” or just “The Ellsworth” or sometimes “The Kelly.” “Inevitably, it will change the way the world sees Austin.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ culminates the career of one of the greatest of modern artists,” says Richard Shiff, an art professor who directs UT’s Center for the Study of Modernism. “Kelly conceived of (it) as a single aesthetic experience. ‘Austin’ is culture in a pure form. Its appeal is universal.”

“‘Austin’ not only showcases Kelly’s early appreciation of historical European art and architecture,” curator Carter Foster says, “it also marries this passion with the transformative themes that he would discover over the course of his life. I hope that, with the help of this exhibition, everyone who visits the work will come away with the same sense of awe that I do.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The opening of ‘Austin’ further cements the Blanton as an international cultural destination,” Wicha says. “The broad geographic support we received for this project is reflective of the audience we anticipate visiting Kelly’s monumental achievement.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

HOW TO SEE ‘AUSTIN’

Starting Feb. 18, Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ will be open during regular Blanton hours; entry is included with museum admission. Go to the Visitors Services desk inside the museum’s east wing to obtain tickets. Find out more at blantonmuseum.org.

rbz Ellsworth Kelly 29.JPG

SXSW puts a premium on art in 2018

At some point, South by Southwest will encompass all human activity.

Austin’s vast March spree started with music in the 1980s, then added movies and technology, before taking on education, philanthropy, the environment and allied fields.

Art came next.

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

Today, SXSW announced six art projects for its second annual  program scheduled for the conference and festivals March 9-18, 2018. Combined with the UNESCO Media Arts Exhibition at SXSW, the installations are meant to expand the discussion on visual and digital and media arts during the confab.

We’ll share some artists and titles. Find more information at SXSW Art Program.

SXSW ART PROGRAM INCLUDES:

“Conductors of the Resistance” by Ronen Sharabani

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

“Future of Secrets” by Sarah Newman, Jessica Yurkofsky and Rachel Kalmar

“Life Underground” by Hervé Cohen

“MTA: Floating Destiny” with music performed by GuQin

“A Colossal Wave!” by Marshmallow Laser Feast

UNESCO MEDIA ARTS EXHIBITION INCLUDES:

“Forgotten Landscapes” by James Hughes and Ha Na Lee

“Gathering”by Lisa Woods

“Herstory” by Yuliya Lanina

“Passage (Variation)” by Luke Savinsky

Meow Wolf

The Living Museum

“Against a Civic Death” by Rodney McMillian:

“Forever Bicycles” by Ai Weiwei

 

Today’s hires, fires, gifts and honors in Austin arts

We lied. This post reports on no firings. You can relax.

Yet “hires, fires, gifts and honors” sounds like a good catch-all headline. We might use it again.

Zilker Theatre Productions makes two key hires

The group that has staged the Zilker Summer Musical for 60 years has taken on J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore as artistic director. Moore, remembered recently for “Buyer and Cellar” at Zach Theatre, will work alongside Executive Director Kate Hix, already in place. Also, one of those beloved behind-the-scenes heroes, Shannon Richey, has been drafted as director of production. Moore and Richey are trusted veterans who will undoubtedly bolster this free and singularly Austin tradition. No word on next summer’s selection.

J. Robert Moore is now artistic director for Zilker Theatre Productions. Contributed

RELATED: Moore joins the Brotherhood of Barbra.

Austin Opera elects new board chairman

Arts benefactors Gail and Jeff Kodosky. Contributed by Becky Delgado

Austin Opera‘s board of trustees has designated Jeff Kodosky, founder of National Instruments and inveterate arts lovers, as its next chairman. He takes over the position from Elisabeth Waltz, who has served as chairwoman 2016. Kodosky has been with the board and the company through thick and thin since 1996. I’m sure this quiet, smiling man could tell some tales about the group that almost went away at least twice, but also has triumphed repeatedly. Next up is “Carmen” in November.

Huston-Tillotson is now an all-Steinway school. Contributed

Huston-Tillotson is now an all-Steinway school

Following a gift of $800,000, Huston-Tillotson University will become the only institution of higher learning in Central Texas, the fourth historically black college or university in the country, and the 196th college or university to join the All-Steinway School club. University officials will unveil the Steinway pianos during their Charter Day Convocation 10 a.m. Oct. 27, 2017 in the King-Seabrook Chapel on the campus at 900 Chicon Street. In addition, Steinway artist Marcus Roberts and the Marcus Roberts Trio will headline a special concert.

Tracy Bonfitto is the Ransom Center’s new curator of art. Contributed by Pete Smith

Ransom Center selects new curator of art

Austinites generally think of the Ransom Center as a literary treasure trove with out-of this-world strengths in modern literature, movies, performing arts and photography. And, oh yes, the Watergate papers. Yet is also houses, preserves and exhibits a lot of excellent visual art, too. Over the summer, Tracy Bonfitto was named curator of art. She comes with sterling credentials from Getty Research Institute, the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She’s also a University of Texas grad.

I’m sure she will meld partnerships with the other distinguished and closely related cultural spots in that area of Austin, including the Blanton Museum of Art, LBJ Presidential Library, Briscoe Center for American History and Bullock Texas State History Museum as well as UT’s highly regarded Landmarks public arts program and its Visual Arts Center. Maybe the new Ellsworth Kelly house will help point the way visually and viscerally for more of a interrelated cultural campus.

Catching a bit of culture on the University of Texas jumbotron

The jumbotron at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. Contributed by Wikipedia

The 2017 Longhorns football team seems to be the real deal. Its three losses were close and two of those were against highly ranked teams. The next home game is Oct. 21 against Oklahoma State University. At times at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, all eyes will be on the jumbotron, which will run three Roy Spence-inspired promos for three top cultural attractions on the University of Texas campus.

Using UT’s patented “What Starts Here Changes the World” slogan, the short videos tout the wonders of the Blanton Museum of Art, Harry Ransom Center, and LBJ Presidential Library.

“UT is renowned for its academics, athletics and vibrant pace of life,” Spence, cofounder of GSD&M creative agency, says. “We also wanted to shine a light on the rich culture that makes UT so extraordinary: its arts and their historical positive impact on society. Within walking distance to the football stadium, UT’s cultural and history-making treasures are a special part of the campus and its legacy. This was an opportunity to showcase those in a big way to both students on campus and nationally to our football fans.”

In addition to running on the jumbotron prompts, the Longhorn Network will air the ads. I hope the creators in coming years expand the program to include the Briscoe Center for American HistoryTexas Performing ArtsBenson Latin American Collection and other UT easily accessible to the general public.

ICYMI: Great story on Blanton Museum’s ancient India exhibit

Shermakaye Bass is one of the best journalists in Austin. A sometime student of Indian culture, she did a swell job breaking down the big Blanton Museum of Art exhibit, “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs through Oct. 1.

SEE FULL STORY HERE

The Blanton Museum exhibit “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art” includes this bronze statue of Vishnu on loan from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Contributed by the Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin

Below, we share a tempting morsel from her story, which ran Aug. 24.

All great cultures have their epics and sacred texts — rife with heroes and villains, gods and demons and magical beings that manifest in the twinkling of an eye. India is no exception. The South Asian subcontinent possesses one of the most fantastical and intricate canons in the world, and right now Austin is allowed a rare glimpse into it via the multidisciplinary installation “Epic Tales From Ancient India: Paintings From the San Diego Museum of Art,” which runs at the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus through Oct. 1.

“Epic Tales” takes visitors on a journey through some of India’s greatest works — the “Ramayana,” “Bhagavata Purana,” “Ragamala” and “Shahnama,” or Persian “Book of Kings.” It features 90 miniature watercolors from San Diego’s renowned collection (most from manuscripts dating from the 16th to 19th centuries), as well as ancient bronzes, video installations, a delightful reading section and a series of dance and storytelling performances. For many, this rich installation is an introduction to the story of India and the Hindu religion.

RELATED: Rehanging of Blanton’s permanent collection rethinks art

“I wanted this exhibition to be a multisensory experience,” curator Ray Williams says. “The paintings are all about story, and I wanted story to be a big part of the show. And while the stories can be entertaining and fun, they also have strong religious meaning, and I wanted to underscore that — that it’s all intertwined.”

Williams, who has studied in India and is director of education and academic affairs at the Blanton, designed the exhibit to be fun while also shining a spotlight on “an amazing culture and an amazing set of stories. We’re saying, ‘You’ve heard of Krishna, you’ve heard of Rama? Well, here’s the bigger story!’”

It’s raining Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Earlier, we reported that an important photographic exhibit about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera would be seen at Mexic-Arte Museum come Sept 16-Nov. 26. Later, we learned that some local elements would be added to the touring show, including a piece inspired by Kahlo’s Blue House.

“Diego and Frida: Smile in the Middle of the Way” comes to Mexic-Arte in September. Contributed

Now we find out that the Butler School of Music and the University of Texas School of Fine Arts have commissioned a Spanish-language opera about the creative duo. Other partners in the deal are Fort Worth Opera, San Diego Opera and DePauw University.

To add to the buzz, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and composer Gabriela Lena Frank have signed on to create “The Last Dream of Frida & Diego.” It will premiere in Fort Worth in spring 2020, San Diego in 2021 and at UT’s Butler Opera Center in February 2021.

We love this. Austin Opera has co-commissioned several outstanding works, although not for a while, as has UT. It’s what an opera producer should do.

Preview: The lives of refugees echoed in classical music

This story about how Austin Classical Guitar will honor refugees in performances at the Blanton Museum of Art this week hits the papers on Thursday.

READ FULL STORY HERE.

Guitarist Isaac Bustos brings an irreducible point of view to “I/We,” a multifaceted concert on the theme of refugees coming July 28-29 to the Blanton Museum of Art.

Ovation after one part of Austin Classical Guitar’s “Narratives” last summer at the Blanton Museum of Art. It was actually three shows: “Persona,” “Process” and “Nocturne” (corresponding in part to birth, life, death). The series made literary connections to writers Fernando Pessoa, Jorge Luis Borges and James Joyce. Contributed

“I know what it’s like to have your entire life in limbo,” Bustos says. “As a child, being treated differently because of my refugee status was difficult. Sometimes I fear that we lose sight of the human aspect of being a refugee, but a project like (this) gives a voice to people with diverse and often traumatic life experiences, and shines a light on what they went through.”

Multimedia producer Yuliya Lanina, part of an international group of artists assembled for this project by Austin Classical Guitar, comes to it with a potent personal connection as well.

“I came as a refugee from Russia in 1990, fleeing anti-Semitism and constant threats,” she says. “The U.S. welcomed me and my family, and we were given the freedom to build our lives without being punished for who we are. I want others who are now in a similar situation, or worse, to have that same opportunity.”

During the past season, the stories of refugees have repeatedly gripped Austin artists. …

ICYMI: Charles Umlauf, Seymour Fogel created two South Austin gems

Readers are flocking to this story about old structures renovated by modernists Charles Umlauf and Seymour Fogel, and now cherished by Austinites.

READ FULL STORY HERE.

The living room of the Umlauf house remains as it was, with its midcentury furniture. Alberto Martínez/American-Statesman

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. …

Catherine Taylor to lead Bullock Texas State History Museum

The Texas State Preservation Board has chosen museum veteran Catherine Taylor to lead the giant Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Catherine Taylor to lead Bullock Texas State History Museum. Contributed

Most recently director of museum resources at the Nantucket Historical Association, the native Texan also served as a district superintendent for California State Parks, overseeing nine museums and state historic parks. She also played multiple roles at the California State Railroad museum.

She earned he BA in history from California State University-Sacramento and she graduated from the Museum Management Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.

“We expect her wealth of experience in all facets of museum operations to take the Bullock to new levels of excellence,” said Rod Welsh, State Preservation Board executive director. The board oversees the State Capitol, Capitol Extension, Capitol Visitors Center, Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Cemetery and their grounds, as well as the history museum. “The museum is at a pivotal point. It will be the centerpiece of an exciting project to redevelop the Texas Capitol Complex into a thriving cultural district that connects the north and south sides of Congress Avenue around the State Capitol.”

The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year and collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original artifacts and host exhibitions. It does not collect artifacts.