Managing volunteers at The Blanton is always entertaining, and this past March was particularly fun! On March 4 and 5, volunteers helped with the installation of A Knitted Wonderland – the temporary textile work by Magda Sayeg in the museum’s Faulkner Plaza – and also helped us host Explore UT, the university’s annual open house. It’s always amazing to see visitors at this event enjoying our exhibitions, but this year we saw a record 8,240 guests, in part because of this special installation that looked like Dr. Seuss had come and dressed our trees!
The idea to commission this artwork originated with Jennifer Garner, the museum’s Manager of School and Family Programs. Her desire was to drive more traffic to The Blanton during Explore UT and to reach out to Austinites, middle school visitors, and hosts of out-of-town guests here for SXSW. She also felt the installation would complement the museum’s current exhibition, Recovering Beauty, which explores notions of color and playfulness. Jennifer was assisted by graduate student and Blanton intern, Kristen Bellamy, who worked hard to help execute the event.
A Knitted Wonderland would never have come to fruition without help from the scores of volunteers who generously offered their time and talents. The work was created by 175 volunteer knitters from all over Austin and was installed with the assistance of many museum volunteers. On the evening of March 4, our volunteers assisted the knitters as they sewed their custom “sleeves” onto the trees. One of the sweaters had the words “I am a tree” embedded within the knitted stripes. Another was created using the Fibonacci series of numbers by students from The Girls School of Austin. And a Blanton member knitted one particularly perfect sweater that held majestic court at the entrance to the Smith Building! While each sweater was made up of the same colored stripes, each was unique.
Volunteers also assisted with a series of fun activities that The Blanton developed in conjunction with Explore UT. This year, we offered lectures, tours, and a sculpture challenge that was judged by museum director Ned Rifkin, along with Blanton curator Ursula Davila Villa, and docent Ellen Hunt. In preparation for these activities, volunteers from the Liberal Arts Science Academy’s National Honor Society came to set up tables and supplies, and the sculpture challenge was overseen by volunteers from The Blanton’s Student Guild, a registered student organization on campus.
Even though we all were exhausted, the day was a great success. A Knitted Wonderland was so well received, we even extended it a week! Congratulations to everyone and a heartfelt thank you to our many volunteers who helped to make it possible.
– Martha Bradshaw, Manager of Visitor and Volunteer Services
Image: Blanton volunteer, Allyson Weber, attaches tree numbers to the 99 trees in A Knitted Wonderland so that knitters could find their tree and sew on the custom sweaters.