Welcome to the new Blanton Blog! Formerly known as “Inside the Box,” our blog has been revamped to provide you with richer and more varied content, and a deeper understanding of what it is we do. Issues pertinent to the art world and to our community right here in Austin will be explored, and we encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts by responding to our posts. We also invite you to follow us, to “like us” on Facebook, and to “re-tweet” our content!

For our inaugural post, Blanton Museum director Ned Rifkin examines the continuing relevance and importance of museums in today’s fast-paced world. Enjoy…

I have often wondered why people support art museums, and how these institutions continue to play important roles within our ever-changing, fast-paced culture. My conclusion, after reflecting on this for many years, is that within the elements of human nature, there is a hunger for creativity. The creative impulse within each of us is what truly distinguishes us as people with dimension, and indeed, many of our successes in life are the result of exercising our imaginations and drawing from the wealth of innovative ideas that we generate virtually every day.

Where, then, might one fully engage his or her creative impulse? Throughout history, museums (stemming from the Greek word “muse” — the mythological embodiment of the spirits that engender music, art, poetry, etc) have served as gathering places where we may commune with these muses and be lifted out of our ordinary selves. Through the examination of works of art, our typical way of acting, feeling and thinking may shift, and our perspective may change.

In museums, we encounter works created by artists from the past, from far away places, and those from the present — all that embody notions of individual differences as well as universal connections. How can a portrait of a man from Italy in the 1500s be relevant to a portrait completed in the 1980s and done in a country that was non-existent 400 years before? The works are of course very different given the contrasting worlds they emerged from, but they maintain a similarity of human intimacy. Beyond the historical and social contexts that we can apply, what can we see in each that connects one to the other? And how can we constructively compare and contrast these two objects? It is questions like these that spark our best thinking and most creative faculties, and museums offer limitless possibilities for these types of “musings.”

Art is engaging not only because of the ideas that attend it, but also because it is visually evident, meaning that if you learn to examine it slowly and with intensity, you may actually see more than you might have initially imagined. Spending time with a work of art is sometimes challenging. Because one feels in a museum the urge to “see it all,” he or she too often ends up looking at many things without really “seeing” anything. The value of art ultimately lies in its second and third layers of examination and perception, in things that can only be discovered during sustained looking and reflecting. It’s truly less important if you “like” or “dislike” a work of art, and better to consider why or how a particular work affects you and how it makes you think and feel as you do.

We invite you to discover The Blanton anew. Enjoy the beauty, delve into the meanings, and bring your most active and inquisitive mind with you to visit “the muses.”

Please note that posts created prior to March 1, 2011 are not currently available on the Blanton Blog. Please contact kathleen.bradystimpert@blantonmuseum.org with any inquiries.

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