Dear, UT Students:
Welcome back! And to the class of 2016, welcome! I’ve been feeling nostalgic this week; for the past few days I have been out on campus promoting the Blanton and our programs. Twenty years ago, I was you—an undergraduate student at UT. I know that you have been getting a lot of advice. “Don’t stay up too late,” your mom advised. “Always read the assignments in Professor Smith’s class,” the girl who was a year ahead of you in high school warned. You have a lot to think about, and in many ways, you are making those decisions by yourself, perhaps for the first time. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I am going to give you another piece of advice, but I like to think of it as an invitation: Visit the Blanton!
While I have been out on campus, one of my standard questions to ask students, faculty, and staff is, “Have you been to the Blanton?” I wait with a huge smile on my face. Many times I hear, “I love it!” or “We went there with my signature course, and I brought my roommate back to see the pennies!” Then, sometimes I hear, “Oh, yeah, I have walked by it.” You’ve walked by it? You’ve walked by the elegant arches, the cold blast of air that hits you when the front doors open, and the glistening blue walls that catch your eye? Stop, please turn around and come inside; let me tell you why.
Art can be many things to many people. I was a pretty quiet kid growing up, and sometimes my shyness made it difficult for me to make friends. When I was a student at UT, the art museum, then called the Huntington and in the art building, was one of the places that enveloped me. Art spoke to me; art nurtured me. I liked art, and art was nonjudgmental. Art gave me something to talk about. Now, when I talk to students about art today on tours or in presentations, a little older and a little bolder, I say to you that I want you to find what art can be for you. I think looking at art helps everyone. Art reflects life, different cultures, and people’s histories and stories. Art helps us slow down in our lives and look closely and think creatively. Becoming careful and thoughtful observers makes us more in tune to the world around us and what is going on around us. Sometimes people will say to me, “but I study engineering,” or “I don’t get it.” That is OK! Art is going to speak to every person differently. If you find one portrait or one installation that speaks to you then you have a relationship with that object forever. You will look at it when you are 20 years old differently than you may look at it when you are 40 years old, but you will cherish the moments you spend with it and be enriched for years to come in ways you may or may not realize today.Your current UT ID card gets you free access to the Blanton year round.
The Blanton isn’t the only museum on campus either. You are on the campus of one of the most amazing universities in the world (I told you I’m an alumna). Go to the other cultural treasures that are here. Admire the artistry of the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center. Imagine life millions of years ago at the Texas Memorial Museum. Be inspired by athletic talent at the Stark Center. See UT as a place where you can gain a world-class education inside and outside the traditional classroom.
So, please don’t walk by, come inside. Find something that is thought provoking and visually arresting to you. Trust me, you will always find something interesting here, and you will not only discover great art, you will most probably discover something more about you.
Have a great year, and Hook ‘Em!
Manager of Docent and University Programs
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin