It’s the advice always given to incoming freshmen: college is the time to try new things and challenge yourself. Luckily for students at the University of Texas at Austin, that something new might be right around the corner on campus.
Despite being on campus and free for those with a UT ID, many students have never been to the Blanton Museum of Art. Why not escape the Texas heat before the semester starts? The museum is located on campus behind the PCL, across the street from Jester dormitories, and is a great place to visit when you aren’t in class or want to take a break from all things school related. I think that some students are a little afraid of visiting an art museum because they don’t know what to expect. But take it from a currently enrolled college student who loves the Blanton: you can visit without fear and have plenty of fun.
What should I wear to the Blanton?
The words “art museum” may conjure up images of fancily dressed ladies and gentlemen strolling through galleries, peering at paintings while whispering their interpretations of artworks to each other. Showing up to any event or place underdressed or overdressed is a nightmare no one wants to go through. To help fellow college students avoid the attire nightmare, remember that the Blanton is a museum open to people of all ages and walks of life. Art might be fancy, but you don’t have to dress like an Italian fashion icon to view art from the Italian Renaissance: Birkenstocks and Nike shorts are just fine. As long as you’re comfortable in what you have on and it’s an appropriate outfit for going out around town, you’re on your way to a successful trip to the museum!
What should I bring to the Blanton?
Besides yourself, I recommend bringing an open-mind and willingness to experience something novel—you never know what you might find.
I like bringing a small notebook and a pencil (no pens allowed!) with me because it could come in handy. If you stumble upon a work that you really like, check out the name and write it down. If you’re artistically inclined, you might want to take some time to create a sketch. There are benches inside the gallery spaces for visitors to gaze at works, take a break from walking, or give themselves a minute to sketch.
I’d also recommend bringing a friend (or a few friends) to see what the Blanton has to offer. I believe that beautiful things are even more beautiful when shared with people you care about and enjoy being with. But for those who like to fly solo, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to the Blanton by yourself.
Don’t forget to bring your phone! If you think you can’t take a #hookem selfie or make your roommate get a snap of you in front of fruit paintings, think again—the Blanton allows photography and loves when visitors share their experiences at the museum on Instagram. Just don’t forget to tag #BlantonMuseum in your caption!
What if I don’t know anything about art?
Don’t worry about it! Art isn’t created for just experts, so you can still enjoy the exhibitions even if you don’t have a background in art history. You probably aren’t the only person in there that doesn’t know a thing about art.
But if you do feel uncomfortable with the idea of touring the gallery yourself, find a friend to come with you or visit during a drop-in tour so you have a guide through the gallery.
The Blanton’s permanent collection holds over 17,000 works and is made up of a wide range of genres. The museum has something to offer everyone and you’re bound to find something you love. You can see works by well-known artists, such as Warhol’s portrait of Farrah Fawcett, as well as intriguing and stimulating art by artists that you may have never heard of, like Jorge Eielson’s Quipus 58 B.
The Blanton also has rotating exhibitions throughout the year, so there is always a new presentation to enjoy. The museum strives to bring its visitors visually-arresting and thought-provoking art all year long. This summer, for example, the Blanton has Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World (#OllerATX) and Natalie Frank: Brothers Grimm (#NatalieFrank). You can always find information regarding current (and past) exhibitions and the museum’s permanent collection on the Blanton’s website.
What other things are there to do or see in the museum?
The Blanton has a variety of events that go on every month. The museum offers workshops and hosts events like SoundSpace (there’s a large number of UT students planning on attending September’s SoundSpace) and Yoga in the Galleries. Most of the events hosted by the Blanton are free to the public or are included with museum admission, which is free for UT students. You can keep yourself always up-to-date on the latest Blanton news and events by following the museum on Instagram and/or liking the Blanton Facebook page. This is one social media savvy museum so make sure to also find the Blanton on Tumblr, Snapchat, and Twitter!
How do I know if I’m doing the “visiting an art museum” thing correctly?
There’s no real way of gauging whether or not you’ve met some standard for a museum visit, because there isn’t one. There’s no right or wrong way to visit a museum. Did you find something cool? Did you learn something new? Did you have fun? Asking yourself questions like those might help answer whether or not you visited the museum like you are “supposed to.” Museums and the art they hold can be a source of inspiration, an invitation to see the world in a new way, and can even provide a way for you to learn more about other people or cultures. You can experience and take from your trip to the Blanton (or any art museum) what you want, but at the end of the day, have fun and enjoy your time with the art.
Next time you find yourself with nothing to do on a weekday or weekend, consider a trip to the Blanton Museum of Art instead of binge-watching Netflix. You never know what you might discover if you step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Jenny Zheng is a third-year marketing major in the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin set to graduate in the fall of 2016. She had the opportunity to work as the PR and marketing intern at the Blanton Museum of Art this summer and enjoys writing in her free time.