Exactly one year ago, I had marked Austin Museum Day 2015 on my calendar. I always enjoy this September Sunday when local museums and historical sites open their doors free-of-charge to visitors. This year I carefully planned my day ahead of time, bypassing the popular museums that I could visit any time. Instead I selected those places that are usually closed to the public or off the beaten track…
Recently Bill and I visited the Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports. This museum is located in the north section of the University of Texas football stadium. We followed the posted signs which instructed us to enter near the main food court (Gate 16) and take the elevator to the fifth floor.
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.