New Grounds Initiative

About the Project

Reimagined. Refreshed. Recreated.

Austin’s art museum is changing, and soon you’ll get to experience it in a completely new way. From the moment you step onto our revitalized grounds, you’ll feel the difference — how the artistic spirit inside the Blanton’s galleries has been extended throughout the museum’s outdoor areas. From the elegant shade canopy that stretches to the big Texas sky, to the colorful native plantings, to bold art installations, the new Blanton grounds will welcome and invite you in like never before!

Our new grounds initiative was designed to unify and revitalize the Blanton campus — which is approximately 200,000 square feet and contains two buildings and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin — through architectural and landscape improvements and art. We’re delighted to be working on the project with the acclaimed international design firm Snøhetta; we’re especially proud that lead architects Craig Dykers, John Newman, and Elaine Molinar are UT Austin alumni. Hook ’em!

One of the highlights of this project is an expansive, dynamic work of art — specifically, the first major public mural commission by noted Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera. Titled Verde que te quiero verde (Green How I Desire You Green), the mural will grace the outside walls of the Mari and James A. Michener Gallery Building, spanning both sides of the entrance; you can read more about it below. There will be additional public art installations to experience when the project is completed late 2022. Stay tuned for future announcements!

“I believe that landscape has the power to transform a community, very much in the way that great art can transform our hearts and minds. The museum’s new grounds initiative designed by Snøhetta and the public mural by visionary artist Carmen Herrera will transform the Blanton, opening the museum into the city, inviting people in not just to see great art, but also to linger, gather, and be inspired before and after each visit. We want to create a destination — a beloved destination — for families, students, tourists, and art lovers alike.

Of course, an undertaking of this scale would not be possible without the incredible generosity of the Moody Foundation, with special thanks to Trustee Elle Moody for her immediate enthusiasm for this initiative. This project is also being realized thanks to the support of the Still Water Foundation, an estate gift from beloved former docent Ann Bower, and other donors.

Simone Jamille Wicha, Director of the Blanton Museum of Art

You can learn more about the project by exploring this page, viewing the gallery of architectural renderings just below, reading the press release, and attending our Virtual Groundbreaking Celebration, a free online event at 7pm CST on Thursday, February 18, 2021.

REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL GROUNDBREAKING CELEBRATION

When construction of the new grounds initiative is completed, you’re invited to explore, gather, contemplate, socialize, rest, and get inspired by enjoying these new features:

Moody Patio: At the heart of this project is a large gathering space spanning the area between the museum’s two main buildings and the plaza of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin. The Moody Patio is named in honor of the Moody Foundation’s $20 million gift to the museum that was announced in early 2019. It encompasses two adjacent stages for performances and includes new landscaping, a lawn, and a variety of seating areas. The new stages will amplify the Blanton’s popular and innovative music programming, live music, and other performances and programming. If you’ve ever attended a Blanton Block Party or B scene, then you know the kind of lively events we’re envisioning for this space!

Larry and Mary Ann Faulkner Gateway: Visitors coming from the Texas Capitol Complex or walking along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard will enter the Blanton grounds via the wide and welcoming steps of the new Larry and Mary Ann Faulkner Gateway. With the Texas State Capitol to the south and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin to the north, this entry point will provide a distinctive bridge between the city and The University of Texas at Austin.

Shade Canopy: Inspired by the arched vaults of the loggia that outline the museum, 15 elegant petal-shaped structures will highlight views of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin and the Texas State Capitol. This shade canopy will generate a dappled light effect during the day and will be illuminated at night, creating a one-of-a-kind visual marker for the Blanton.

Landscaping: The new grounds initiative draws on the unique character and resilience of native Texas flora. Throughout the museum walkways and gardens, more than 25,000 new plants will be added, 95% of which are native to the state. Wherever you wander throughout the new Blanton grounds, you’ll enjoy plantings and small gardens filled with native species. Among them: dwarf palmetto, Texas gold columbine, and Cherokee sedge. The design’s focus on sustainability has been developed with an eye toward SITES certification.

Landscaped Pathway: You’ll no doubt be inspired to wander and wonder as you follow along the winding pathway designed to connect the Blanton’s two main buildings, Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, and other features on the museum grounds. Landscaped with native Texas plantings, the path will join all approaches to the museum and offer small garden areas and seating for relaxing and socializing.

Vaulted Entrances and New Lobbies: To improve visitor experience and flow, we’ve relocated the museum’s check-in entrance to the Edgar A. Smith Building. After check-in, you can choose to visit the Mari and James A. Michener Gallery Building and enjoy the art from the moment you enter, or head over to Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin. What’s more, entrances to the two main museum buildings have been redesigned for easy identification; they will be marked by protruding vaults that echo the loggia arches and the curves of the shade canopy. The vault addition to the Michener Gallery Building will be U-shaped, featuring a unique interior viewing deck on the museum’s second floor; you’ll be able to sit inside the vault and watch what’s happening out on the Moody Patio just below.

Public Art: The Blanton is commissioning a number of new public artworks to be installed throughout the grounds, providing exciting new ways for our community to engage with art beyond the Blanton’s gallery walls.

Blanton Designated Visitor Drop-Off: A new museum drop-off area on Brazos Street, just behind the museum’s grounds and across from Brazos Garage, will help make the museum more accessible. From students visiting the Blanton in school buses to museum visitors with special mobility needs, this new feature will simplify their visit.

Museum Café: Because Austin is the perfect city for al fresco dining, our redesigned café will feature outdoor seating accentuated by shade trees and native plantings. A new menu of local favorites means a meal here will be on the “don’t-miss” list for your visit. We’ll be sharing forthcoming updates on the new direction for the café soon.

 

Carmen Herrera Mural: One of the most exciting additions to the redesigned grounds is the site-specific mural by renowned Cuban-American abstract painter Carmen Herrera, her first major public mural commission. The title, Verde que te quiero verde, translates to Green How I Desire You Green, and comes from the poem Romance sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. The visual forms in the mural reference a painting by Herrera titled Green and White from 1956. The artwork will be sited on the interior wall under the Michener Gallery Building’s loggia, spanning the length of the building, with the museum’s entrance in the middle.

Born in Havana in 1915, Herrera sold her first painting in 2004, when she was 89 years old. “There’s a saying that you wait for the bus and it will come,” she said recently. “I waited almost a hundred years!” This first sale signalled a shift in her career. She was soon recognized as one of the greatest undiscovered secrets in the history of Cuban art, and increasingly gained the spotlight after her retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2016-17.

Having first studied architecture at the University of Havana in the late 1930s, Herrera lived and worked in Paris from 1948 to 1954, before settling definitively in New York. While in Paris, she was part of a group of abstract painters who exhibited at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. This was the important post-war Parisian successor to geometric abstract art movements whose lineages reached as far back as De Stijl, Constructivism, and Concrete Art of the 1910s. Herrera exhibited there from 1949 to 1952, and recalls about an encounter at the Salon: “One of the founders of the group said to me, ‘Madame, but you know you have so many things in that painting,’ and I felt very good about the compliment. But then I realized that he was trying to tell me that I was putting too much in the painting.”

Such formative experiences led Herrera to a process of distillation and purification of her art, as well as a recovery of the straight lines and sharp angles of her architectural training, that constituted a turning point in her practice. The pivotal White and Green series that she worked on sporadically between 1959 and 1971 grew organically from this process. In this series, Herrera first began to play with expansive fields of monochromatic color bisected by angular forms that would become her signature style. She also began to paint her frames, treating the entire canvas as a three-dimensional object, foreshadowing her sculptural Estructuras (Structures) begun in the mid-1960s. Remember that the precise painting that gave rise to the Blanton’s mural is conversely titled Green and White and dates to 1956. One of her first experiments in this new, pared-down geometric language, it is also one of the only canvases of this period painted entirely green with dynamic white angles whirling across the picture plane. Repeated throughout the Blanton’s signature loggia, it will activate the space at the same time that it celebrates the long and lasting legacy of a painter who revolutionized the practice of geometric abstraction in Havana, New York, and beyond—albeit quietly—for decades.

“It is an honor that my first major public mural commission will be with the Blanton Museum of Art, an institution that I have admired and respected for decades. As a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of Latin American descent, as well as the place where Ellsworth Kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career.”

– Carmen Herrera

This major Blanton acquisition is made possible thanks to generous support from the Kahng Foundation.

Other Art Installations: Several additional works of art, to be announced in coming months, will be installed throughout the grounds, providing exciting new ways for our community to engage with art beyond the Blanton’s gallery walls.

Overview: The Lone Star State is home to a wide variety of trees, bushes, flowers, and grasses that are both beautiful and hardy, and the landscaping for the new grounds initiative draws on the unique character and resilience of native Texas flora. Throughout the museum walkways and gardens, more than 25,000 new plants will be added, 95% of which are native to the state. You can learn about a few of the landscaping highlights below.

Heritage and Shade Trees: Whether you’re arriving from the Brazos Garage or strolling down MLK Jr. Boulevard, you’ll get to enjoy a variety of trees providing both visual interest and shade from the bright Texas sun. The new pathway from the garage to the museum entrances will take you through a grove of long-standing heritage trees (trees with trunk diameters exceeding 24 inches), including several stately Southern live oaks. Coming up the stairs of the Faulkner Gateway, you’ll be greeted by smaller ornamental trees and plantings. Similar landscaping will enhance and shade the outdoor café seating, as well.

Native Plants: Wherever you wander throughout the new Blanton grounds, you’ll enjoy plantings and small gardens filled with native species. Among them: dwarf palmetto, Texas gold columbine, and Cherokee sedge.

SITES Certification: The design’s focus on sustainability has been developed with an eye toward SITES certification.

Lead funding for the new grounds initiative is generously provided by The Moody Foundation. Major funding is also provided by the Still Water Foundation and the Estate of Ann Bower. Further support is thanks to the Kahng Foundation, Jack and Katie Blaha, and other donors.

Funding opportunities are still available. If you are interested in helping to support this transformational project, please reach out to Anna Berns, director of development: Anna.Berns@blantonmuseum.org.

  • BLANTON MUSEUM OF ART
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    Simone Wicha, Blanton Museum of Art, Director
    Kimberly Theel, Blanton Museum of Art, Deputy Director, Operations
    Dalia Azim, Blanton Museum of Art, Manager of Special Projects
    Carter E. Foster, Blanton Museum of Art, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs

  • DESIGN ARCHITECT
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    Craig Dykers, FAIA, LEED, AP, Int FRIBA, FRSA, RAAR, PhD, Snøhetta, Founding Partner
    John Newman, Snøhetta, Director/Senior Architect/Lead Architect
    Matt McMahon, Snøhetta, Director/Architect/Lead Landscape Architect
    Elaine Molinar, NCARB, AIA, LEED AP, Snøhetta, Partner/Managing Director
    Paul Drummond, PLA, Snøhetta, Landscape Architect
    Claire Laurence, Snøhetta, Design Architect
    Yuan Zhuang, Snøhetta, Landscape Designer
    Pia Falk Lind, Snøhetta, Donor Signage Consultant
    Henrik Haugan, Snøhetta, Donor Signage Consultant
    Nadine Fumiko Schaub, Snøhetta, Donor Signage Consultant

  • LOCAL LEAD ARCHITECT
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    Larry Irsik, AIA, Leed AP, Architexas, Executive Architect
    Stan Graves, FAIA, Architexas, Senior Principal
    John Allender, AIA, Leed AP, Architexas, Lead Architect
    Jungmin Kim, Architexas, Intern Architect
    Nathan Clark, Architexas, Intern Architect

  • LOCAL LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
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    Catherine O’Connor, Co’Design, Landscape Architect

  • CONSTRUCTION AND SUBCONTRACTORS
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    UT PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND CONSTRUCTION SERVICES (PMCS)
    Sergey Belov, UT PMCS, Project Manager
    Linda G. Tsai, RA, UT PMCS, Team Lead, Arts & Entertainment

    CONSTRUCTION
    David Frame, III, White Construction, Vice President/Operations
    Brad Barber, White Construction, Sr. Project Manager
    Danny Howard, White Construction, Project Superintendent

    CIVIL ENGINEERS
    Julia Mrnak, PE, Garza EMC, Civil Engineer
    Anna Merryman, Garza EMC, Civil, Graduate Engineer

    STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS
    Karina Tribble, PE, Leed AP, AEC-WAY, Senior Associate
    Ruthie Norval, PE, AEC-WAY, Project Engineer

    MECHANICAL, ELECTRICAL, AND PLUMBING (MEP) ENGINEERS
    Shawn Allen, PE, Jose Guerra, MEP Engineer
    Julia Wagner, PE, Jose Guerra, MEP Engineer

    LIGHTING DESIGN
    Hervé Descottes, L’Observatoire International, Principal
    Jenny Ivansson, L’Observatoire International, Senior Associate/Project Lead
    Carlos Garcia, L’Observatoire International, Associate/Project Manager
    Natalia Priwin, L’Observatoire International, Associate/Concept Design

    AV / DATA / SECURITY
    Sean Doyle, Datacom Design, AV/IT/Security
    Regina Herry, Datacom Design, Audio /Visual

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