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Blantons Add to Family Legacy, Launch Namesake Museum’s $40 Million Campaign with New Gift

Giving News

By Richard Havens

“What excites me the most is that no one fully anticipated the impact the Blanton has had,” says Eddy Blanton. He’s reflecting on the success of UT’s newly constructed Blanton Museum of Art, named for his father, Jack S. Blanton, longtime Houston business and civic leader, former chairman of the UT Board of Regents, and 81-year-old patriarch to generations of UT alumni.

Jack Blanton, second from right, was on hand for the Blanton Museum's first gala in its new home. His children, Jack Blanton Jr, Elizabeth Wareing, and Eddy Blanton, honored him with a surprise gift to the museum.

Jack Blanton, second from right, was honored by Eddy Blanton, Elizabeth Wareing, and Jack Blanton, Jr., with a gift that launched the Blanton Museum’s new campaign.

Eddy Blanton recently teamed with his siblings, fellow Texas Exes Jack Blanton, Jr., and Elizabeth Wareing, to honor their father with a $1 million gift to the museum. They made the gift through the Scurlock Foundation, named for Eddy Scurlock, their grandfather and Jack Sr.’s father-in-law. “My grandfather always said it takes a team, and that’s what we wanted to do,” Eddy says, “be a part of a team with the many other people who are making the museum what it is.”

UT President Bill Powers announced their donation in January as a surprise at the Blanton Museum’s first gala in its new home. The event paid tribute to Jack Blanton and launched the museum’s $40 million component of the Campaign for Texas. Funds raised will support exhibitions and the permanent collection while strengthening the Blanton’s endowment.

Thanks to the shared vision of so many supporters, who have made gifts of all sizes, UT now has the largest university art museum in the country. At 180,000 square feet, it houses more than 18,000 works in state-of-the-art facilities just steps from the Capitol. The Blanton quickly has become a center of activity, with a robust annual attendance of 115,000 students and visitors studying art and enjoying popular programs such as the museum’s monthly “B scene” parties and Bach Cantata Project performances. The Scurlock Foundation’s $1 million gift will help ensure that the museum continues to exceed expectations.

At 180,000 square feet, the Blanton is the largest university art museum in the country..

At 180,000 square feet, the Blanton is the largest university art museum in the country.

Since the completion in 2006 of the Mari and James A. Michener Gallery Building, the first of the Blanton’s two buildings to open, its exhibitions have been popular with critics as well. “The Geometry of Hope: Latin American Abstract Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection,” a recent exhibition that drew on the museum’s preeminent resources in Latin American art, was named the best thematic show nationally at the International Association of Art Critics Awards, putting the Blanton in company with New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The buzz has continued this spring with the touring exhibition “Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury,” on view through May 17. Befitting its favorable reviews in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, “Birth of the Cool” has been drawing enormous crowds. Changing gears this fall, the museum will present a rare discovery. A fragment of a Veronese painting from the Blanton’s Suida-Manning Collection of Renaissance and Baroque art recently was identified as the central figure separated more than 200 years ago from a larger work by the artist, the so-called Petrobelli Altarpiece. The Blanton will be the only U.S. venue to exhibit a reconstruction of this masterwork.

As Powers noted at the Blanton gala, “A great university deserves a great art museum.” Like the Blanton family, the president recognizes that meaningful experiences with fine art and culture are an essential part of a college education. The museum connects art to students across campus — history students, say, studying the American narrative through the social realist works of the Michener Collection, or business students examining entrepreneurship through contemporary works by Mike Smith, one of UT’s renowned art professors.

Students of all ages are among the museum's thousands of visitors each year.

The Blanton is a public gateway for UT, with students of all ages among its thousands of visitors each year.

The Blanton children are pleased with the museum’s progress and excited about its future. Jack Blanton, Jr., notes that it is fulfilling its promise to serve as a gateway that connects the public, including K-12 students, to UT. “I’ve seen what a truly great museum can do to bring a community together, and that’s what’s happening here,” he says. Asked what she hopes for the Blanton’s future, Wareing says, “It’s my heart’s desire that it continue to be outstanding, that it strive to be even better, and that it demonstrate a level of integrity that reflects the man it’s named for.”

With the recent opening of its newest component, the Edgar A. Smith Building, which houses classrooms and an auditorium, shop, and café, the Blanton has embarked upon its next stage of development: to build programs that will fulfill its potential as a center of excellence. Alumni and friends who contribute to the campaign will support further exhibitions and research, fund new acquisitions, and give students and other visitors a new reason to be proud of UT. The gift from Jack Blanton’s children leads the way.

To learn more about supporting the Blanton Museum of Art, visit the museum’s website or contact Director of Development Simone Wicha by e-mail or by calling 512-475-6013.

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