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Gala Celebrates Half a Century of Art at the Blanton

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Welcoming 126,000 visitors each year, the Blanton Museum of Art inspires people of all ages and interests. And now the museum is marking a major milestone. On February 16, 2013, it will kick off celebrations of the 50th year since its founding with a grand gala and special anniversary exhibition.

Blanton Museum

The nation’s largest university art museum, the Blanton offers a range of programs for UT students and visitors of all ages.

A cultural haven on the UT campus and the nation’s largest university art museum, the Blanton provides engaging experiences for students, faculty, alumni, and other visitors. With popular exhibitions and more than 17,000 artworks ranging from Old Masters to cutting-edge contemporary work, as well as one of the strongest collections of Latin American art in the U.S., this is a museum that fosters an appreciation for art and artists.

The Blanton’s golden anniversary, says director Simone Wicha, BS ’96, is a time to celebrate and to acknowledge the many visitors, members, and supporters who have made the museum a special place for art, scholarship, and discovery.

“We find ourselves at one of the most exciting points in our history,” Wicha says. “We are taking this opportunity not only to reflect on the museum’s legacy of excellence but also to embark on a new phase to significantly broaden the museum’s impact across campus and better serve our diverse audience. I’m proud to celebrate this pivotal moment with the many supporters both on and off campus who have made all that we do possible.”

Ginger Blanton, former Blanton Museum director Jessie Otto Hite, museum director Simone Wicha, and Jack S. Blanton

Ginger Blanton, former Blanton Museum director Jessie Otto Hite, museum director Simone Wicha, and Jack S. Blanton.

The Blanton’s collection was built by gifts from collectors and art lovers, such as Mari and James Michener and Michael and Jeanne Klein. Among the many gifts is the site-specific installation Stacked Waters by artist Teresita Fernández, a striking addition to the museum’s atrium made possible by the generosity of Michael, BS ’58, LLB ’63, and Jeanne, BS ’67. The museum also grew thanks to the visionary leadership of such individuals as Bernard Rapoport, BA ’39, and his wife, Audre, and museum namesake Jack S. Blanton, BA ’47, LLB ’50, and his late wife, Laura Lee Scurlock Blanton, BA ’50. The generosity and dedication of supporters who realize the power of art to transform lives have helped distinguish the museum as a world-class institution.

The Blanton opened a two-building complex in 2006 on the south end of campus with spacious galleries, a central plaza, classrooms, and a 300-seat auditorium. By connecting its collection to the rich intellectual resources of UT, the museum is a laboratory of ideas and learning. Faculty and students from many disciplines integrate the study of art into their scholarly research, curricula, and courses.

Bellezza Pompeiana

“Bellezza Pompeiana,” 1909, a John William Godward painting from a private collection, will be among the works featured in the “Through the Eyes of Texas” exhibition.

In addition, the museum offers alumni and students the chance to become acquainted with the collection and dynamic exhibitions through lectures by curators, artists, scholars, and other prominent guests, as well as programs that connect to music and film. It also serves as a training ground for future curators and professionals through its internship program for UT students. Blanton interns have gone on to work for respected museums and cultural institutions throughout the state and country.

So how will the Blanton mark its rich, 50-year history of acquiring, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting art? In early 2013 it plans to commemorate its five decades with a gala, exhibition, and public festival.

The gala, on Saturday, Feb. 16, will raise funds for the museum’s exhibitions and programs and toast the leaders and supporters who have helped root the Blanton in Austin and grow it into a Texas steward of culture and creative expression. UT president emeritus Larry R. Faulkner, Ph.D. ’69, and retired Blanton director Jessie Otto Hite, BS ’69, MA ’82, are honorary co-chairs for the event. Numerous other supporters have stepped forward as regional chairs.

Blanton Museum of Art - Celebrating 50 YearsThe exhibition, “Through the Eyes of Texas: Masterworks from Alumni Collections,” will be on view for gala attendees before its public run from Feb. 24 ­to May 19. Texas Exes across the country are loaning major pieces from their private collections for this unprecedented exhibition, underscoring how UT alumni have influenced and shaped the art world today.

Need one more reason to stop by the Blanton and celebrate 50 years of art? On Saturday, April 27, the museum will host a 12-hour party, free to the public, that will feature activities for visitors of all ages — from special tours and art-making projects to live music.

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