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Arts Eclectic turns the spotlight on happenings in the arts and culture scene in and around the Austin area. Through interviews with local musicians, dancers, singers, and artists, Arts Eclectic aims to bring locals to the forefront and highlight community cultural events.Support for Arts Eclectic comes from Broadway Bank.

'A new way to consider the works': UT's Landmarks collection celebrates 'The Summer of KUTX'

Mark di Suvero, Clock Knot, 2007 -- the inspiration for Art Levy's playlist
Paul Bardagjy
Mark di Suvero, Clock Knot, 2007

Landmarks, UT’s public art collection, features dozens of outdoor sculptures and other works, essentially turning the university campus into an enormous outdoor museum. And when she became the project’s deputy director several years ago, Kathleen Brady Stimpert wanted to create a new way for visitors to interact with the works.

“When I came on, I was thinking through ways that we could better engage the community and tap into new audiences,” she says. “And obviously, with Austin's love of music, I felt like some sort of music program or music-adjacent program would be very helpful to us. And I landed on the idea of this playlist program and we started it five years ago. And the response was just really fantastic from the outset. We invited folks such as John Aielli, Walker Lukens, Graham Reynolds, Peter Bay, Jackie Venson… You know, the list goes on and on and on.”

The program, dubbed Listening with Landmarks, has been in place since 2019 and now comprises dozens of playlists inspired by various Landmarks works.

“It's been really neat to see the works that our playlist contributors select,” Stimpert says, “because I think it's very telling in some ways about who they are and what their preferences are. And even more interesting has been the playlists that they've contributed. Because you might imagine that, you know, someone like Bob Schneider would pick a very rock and roll focused playlist. And in fact, what we found is that there are all types of musical genres reflected within the playlists.”

For the next few months, Listening with Landmarks will focus on some of my colleagues. “We are thrilled to roll out what we are calling ‘The Summer of KUTX,’” Stimpert says. “And we have invited Taylor Wallace, Art Levy, Marnie Castor, [and] Trina Quinn to all contribute playlists. Taylor Wallace's playlist, which was released on June 3rd, responds to a work of video art by the artist David Ellis and Art Levy's playlist, which will release on June 17th, was created in response to Clock Knot, which is the big Mark di Suvero sculpture, [the] big red sculpture in front of an engineering building here on Dean Keeton. And then after that, we will release a playlist by Marnie Castor, and she responded to a work by the artist Michael Ray Charles that is also here on campus. And lastly, on August 1st Trina Quinn's playlist will come out and that was created in response to a work by an artist named Magdalena Abakanowicz, and it is in front of Texas Performing Arts and Bass Concert Hall.”

Stimpert says the program has been more successful than she’d expected. “The community response has just really exceeded our expectations,” she says. “People are clearly downloading these playlists [and] saving them on Spotify. And we don't know if they are listening to them right in front of the works here on campus or elsewhere.”

When I talked with Levy about his playlist, he told me that he hopes people will listen while relaxing on the lawn that surrounds Clock Knot (which is just down the street from KUT/KUTX’s studios).

“You certainly can do that,” Stimpert says. “We think that that provides a new and unique way to experience the works. But you could also just listen to it outside of your art viewing experience. You can just listen to it when you're running around Ladybird Lake or in your car. The idea was just to… give our audience a new way to consider the works in our collection, to think about them, perhaps in connection with another artistic discipline and really just to heighten visibility of the program overall.”

Listening with Landmarks isn’t the only music-focused program associated with Landmarks. “Landmarks has another music program and it's called Songs In the Skyspace and it is hosted inside kind of the jewel of our collection, which is an installation by the artist James Turrell,” Stimpert says. “We have a Skyspace here on campus [Turrell’s The Color Inside] sited on the rooftop of the student activity center. And the space is such that it can accommodate 25 [or] 30 people for what we call a ‘light viewing’, a light sequence viewing. James Turrell is really a celebrated master of light – that is his medium – and he is a genius with color theory. And so he creates these immersive experiences for visitors. They come into a Skyspace and over the course of an hour, the space is filled with different, vibrant, very dramatic washes of light. And the light sequence itself is just an incredible experience. But when you pair it with music, it's even more engaging. And so for several years, we have invited different musicians – again, cutting across all musical genres – to come and perform in the space. We've had Tejano singers, we've had Liz Cass and other opera singers. We've had electronic musicians, classical guitarists. And again, like Listening with Landmarks, Songs In the Skyspace offers another point of entry for engaging with Landmarks’ collection.”

 Listening with Landmarks 'Summer of KUTX' playlists are available on the Landmarks website or on Spotify.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces and hosts This Is My Thing and Arts Eclectic, and also produces Get Involved and the Sonic ID project. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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