Being the new kid on campus can be pretty intimidating, especially on a campus as large as the one at the University of Texas at Austin. I should know—I just moved to Austin in August, and still am unfamiliar with half of the buildings that I bike past daily. But what if you were personally introduced to the school? And not just the buildings, but a sampling of what a university of this size has to offer?
Explore UT is a day-long open house for anyone interested in what it is like to be part of Austin’s large academic community. Activities are geared for all ages, and appeal to young children, curious adults, and those just beginning to think about what shape their education might take beyond high school. During Explore UT, units across campus come together to set aside a day for the community to be part of one of Texas’ largest universities. More than just a college tour, the day is filled with participatory activities to help people get their bearings on the enriching opportunities unique to the University.
One of these assets that may surprise new Explore UT attendees is the Blanton Museum of Art on the Southern most edge of campus. UT hosts one of the nation’s largest university art museums, which often is used in courses to show how concepts discussed in class reach beyond the lecture hall. The Blanton partners with classes for undergraduates and graduate students and allows researchers to work with primary sources. It is truly special to have such an established resource at easy access.
For Explore UT, the Blanton’s Education department showcases the museum by providing special interactive activities for museum-goers and offering free admission. The museum literally goes outside to greet visitors; interactive art-making activities spark curiosity, spur creativity, and build a sense of belonging with the university and its artistic outlets.
This year at Explore UT, the Blanton will be the spot to join in on an improvisational game, design postcards and contribute to a communal wall drawing inspired by the exhibition, Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt. Visitors are encouraged to use the special Explore UT interactives to connect with art, both in and out of the gallery, on a deeper level.
These activities invite a different sense of what a university (and a museum) can teach, and builds enthusiasm for unique learning spaces. By offering lively and exciting activities on the plaza, the museum opens its doors to those who may have never known it existed. Most importantly, the Blanton’s offerings for Explore UT contribute to a unified campus welcome for all aspiring learners.
Lauren Wilson is the Graduate Research Intern for Family and Community Programs at the Blanton. In addition to her work with the Museum, she studies Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.