This Saturday, March 7 marks the 16th annual “Biggest Open House in Texas,” Explore UT. During Explore UT, the public is invited to the UT Austin campus to learn more about the university’s goals, programs, and resources. Across the 40 Acres, visitors will find special events and activities spanning all genres and interests for everyone from early learners, to prospective students, to adults. Explore UT is a great opportunity to discover how campus communities work together and how learning extends beyond the classroom.
There is no better place for discovery to begin than at the Blanton Museum of Art. Throughout the year, classes across disciplines visit the Blanton because it provides unique opportunities for creative, participatory study alongside works of art from Old Master paintings to contemporary sculpture, and beyond. At Explore UT, the Blanton offers interactive activities that encourage curiosity and imagination through a variety of media.
This year, the powerful exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties coincides with Explore UT, and our activities focus on amplifying the diverse voices of our visitors. As UT President Bill Powers says in his introduction to Explore UT: “We like to say ‘What starts here changes the world’.” Through thoughtful art-making and creative writing, we want to inspire our visitors to be brave, be honest, and be empowered!
Inside the museum, in addition to our special exhibitions and galleries, there are two activities that challenge our visitors’ ideas of expression. The first, which will take place in the atrium, is inspired by the Race Card Project, which asks visitors to condense their thoughts about identity, experiences, and beliefs into just six words. Next, visitors can ‘post’ their card to magnetic boards to create a community forum that others can respond to. The second indoor activity takes place upstairs on the Blanton’s mezzanine, and is called Art of Gold. Inspired by Lawdy Mama, a work by artist Barkley Hendricks in the Witness exhibition, and the way gold is used symbolically throughout art history, this activity invites visitors to create photo-portraits of themselves surrounded by gold.
The Blanton will also offer two outdoor activities, both tied directly to activist and protest traditions used by the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement. Under the loggia, guests can create buttons using words and images that convey a message—making creative use of a 2” circle! In the plaza ,another tradition is upheld in the form of placards. Visitors can write a message on a large board and hold it up proudly in view of the Texas State Capitol building.
We encourage our visitors to share their photos, thoughts, and comments using the hashtag #WitnessVoices, at any time during the event. Who knows, maybe your post will inspire someone else to make a change, take a stand, and make their voice heard!
Elizabeth Srsic is a first year MA student in the Art History Department at the University of Texas, specializing in Medieval art. She is the Graduate Fellow for Family and Community Programs at the Blanton.