The Blanton Museum of Art is located on the southern end of the University of Texas campus. Built in 2004, their current two-story home has plenty of space for hosting temporary exhibitions and for displaying pieces from their extensive permanent collection of over 17,000 works.
The Contemporary at Laguna Gloria is located west of downtown Austin at the end of West 35th Street. When I last visited, this location was called the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA). A few years ago, AMOA merged with downtown’s Arthouse at the Jones Center to form a new entity, The Contemporary Austin. The Laguna Gloria site now focuses on outdoor sculpture and art installations and is home to The Art School.
The mission of the Harry Ransom Center is to “advance the study of the arts and humanities.” Located on the west side of the University of Texas campus, the Ransom Center is primarily an archive and library. The first floor is open to the public and features two small permanent exhibits: a Gutenberg Bible is on display, one of five complete copies in the US, and also the first photograph, taken in France in 1826 or 1827. Larger, rotating exhibits are assembled from the Center’s extensive collection. Two of my recent favorites have been Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos into the Digital Age and The King James Bible: Its History and Influence.
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum lies just east of Zilker Park and the Barton Springs Pool. In 1985, sculptor Charles Umlauf and his wife Angeline gifted this property and 168 sculptures to the City of Austin. Six years later, a garden and gallery building were built in the lower section. Their house on top of the hill has been restored and is available for private events. Both the house and his studio will be opened to the public in the near future.
The Elizabet Ney Museum is a hidden gem tucked away in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Sculptor Elizabet Ney built this studio/residence in 1892 and lived there until her death in 1907. The museum reopened earlier this summer after being closed for remodeling. Improvements include a new roof and restoring the grounds to the original natural landscape.
The Old Bakery and Emporium sits on Congress Avenue, just a block south of the Texas State Capitol Grounds. The structure was built in 1876 by Charles Lundberg and used as a bakery until 1936. Some remnants of Lundberg’s business still remain: an original spade (long paddle) hangs on the wall upstairs and a cast-iron oven can be seen at the back of the building.
Tibetan Buddhist monks are creating a sand mandala at The Blanton this week. This intricate work-of-art is being created in conjunction with the art museum’s current exhibit, Into the Sacred City: Tibetan Buddhist Dieties from the Theos Banard Collection. The five-foot mandala was begun after a consecration ceremony on Wednesday evening.
I first stopped by the Byrne-Reed House on Rio Grande Street, headquarters for Humanities Texas. As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, this non-profit “conducts and supports public programs in history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines.” Humanities Texas administers a grants program, creates traveling exhibitions and conducts various educational programs.
The current exhibit is Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World. But I must confess that I spent more time admiring the house than reading the exhibit panels. I learned that the Byrne-Reed House was built as a family home in 1907 but was turned into an stucco-covered offering building in 1969. Humanities Texas purchased the building in 2006 and recently completed an award-winning restoration project .
Next on my itinerary was the Texas Medical Association History of Medicine Gallery. I have driven past this corner of Guadalupe and 15th Street many, many times but wasn’t aware of this little museum in the first floor lobby.
The current exhibit, Don’t Spit on the Sidewalk, describes the top 10 public health achievements of the last century, including vaccination, motor vehicle safety, and fluoridation of drinking water. The exhibit’s name comes from sidewalk bricks which were laid to help control infectious diseases. This “museum” wasn’t big but the displays were informative and I was glad that I had stopped by.
Last stop on my downtown museum tour was the German Free School, tucked away on the 10th Street hillside near Red River. I’ve been to concerts next door at The Mohawk, but had absolutely no idea that this beautiful historic building was behind the trees. The folks in the School probably know about their noisy neighbors at The Mohawk though.