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$10 Million Donation Will Bring Outdoor Art To Blanton Museum, UT Campus

Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin," a stone building with colored glass windows
Gabriel C. Pérez
Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin," a stone building with colored glass windows, became part of the Blanton Museum's permanent collection in 2018.

An Austin-based foundation is giving UT Austin $10 million to bring new pieces of art to outdoor spaces on campus. 

The money from the Still Water Foundation will be split between the Blanton Museum of Art and the university’s College of Fine Arts program, Landmarks.

Five million dollars will go toward the Blanton’s master plan to improve museum grounds and create more outdoor programming, like the annual Blanton Block Party. Landmarks will use its half for a new endowment campaign to support its public art collection. 

“The Still Water Foundation is leaving their own creative imprint on our historic campus,” UT president Greg Fenves said in a statement. “One that will be appreciated and enjoyed by students, scholars and visitors at UT for decades to come.”

Last year, the Moody Foundation gave the Blanton museum $20 million to transform its exterior spaces. The gift was one of the largest ever granted to benefit Austin's fine arts community, and the largest ever given in support of the city's outdoor spaces. 

The Blanton is home to more than 19,000 works and has the largest collection of art in Central Texas. Carlotta Stankiewicz, its director of marketing and communications, said the museum wants to ensure the outside of the building reflects that and draws visitors. 

“People have a little bit of trouble finding the museum sometimes; there's not any exterior branding that is very apparent," she said. "Sometimes it can be difficult to get to the museum entrance ... so we're redesigning the grounds and how people enter the museum and how they find their way to the parking garage."

The goal is to create an identifiable and pedestrian-friendly area that's accessible to all communities.

Credit Paul Bardagjy / Courtesy of Landmarks
Courtesy of Landmarks
"Monochrome for Austin," a sculpture by Nancy Rubins, was installed on the UT Austin campus in 2015 as part of the Landmarks program.

"Austin, I think, is a very outdoor city and we have a lot of great outdoor spaces and festivals," Stankiewicz said. "And so I think it just makes sense for the Blanton to be able to be a part of that."

A new "Texas mall" will form a connection between the university, the City of Austin and the state Capitol complex. Stankiewicz said the museum is hoping to break ground this fall. The finished product is expected to be unveiled in 2022. 

Landmarks prides itself on providing free and accessible art throughout campus. More than 40 works are part of the program's public art collection, including the red Clock Knot standing outside the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering building and the cluster of wooden crutches, known as (Forever Free) Ideas, Languages and Conversations, inside the Gordon-White building. 

The Still Water Foundation is a private family foundation known for investing in arts, education and the environment, with a focus on rural communities in West Texas. 

Dani Matias is a producer and host for KUT's Morning Edition. Before moving to Austin, she wrote breaking news for NPR and witnessed the Jonas Brothers’ Tiny Desk Concert in Washington, D.C.
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