Beyond the rainbow-colored squares and rays of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” at the Blanton Museum of Art, massive, white, petal-like structures blossom from the ground. Peeking out behind the petals is the pink granite of the state’s capitol building.
The magnificent view is one of the highlights of the Blanton’s makeover, which debuted this month. Construction on the project, which cost roughly $35 million, started in March 2021 and features new murals, a sound garden, a revamped patio, new signage and lighting, ceiling fans, stages, rocking chairs and more.
The museum also debuted new hours this month. The museum will now be open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays and free admission will be offered on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays. The museum is open at 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and closes at 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and on Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays.
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“We built these great buildings to house our collection, but that wasn’t always clear. When you walked on site, or whether you were on (the University of Texas) campus, at the museum or when you drove by, it was a little hard to distinguish our buildings from other buildings on campus. So, we’re really going to have a greater presence and a greater sense of welcome to our community,” said Simone Wicha, the director of the museum.
No longer random or hidden, the museum feels like the destination it is now. You can see it clearly and hugely from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and new works welcome visitors to the updated space. A new driveway for drop-offs, is embellished with artist Kay Rosen’s “HI.” The mural is blue with big white letters of “A B C D E F G” and two yellow letters of “H I.”
A walkway, made cozy with trees, brings visitors around to the petals outside the Blanton’s two buildings. Inside the new entrance, which includes an obvious ticketing hub, is artist Gabriel Dawe’s “Plexus No. 44.” Made up of embroidered threads, the piece offers up a rainbow as you enter the building. (Make sure you walk upstairs to see the work from above!)
The Moody Patio, formerly known as the museum’s plaza, outside is now an honest-to-goodness destination. Rocking chairs, lawn chairs and an ample grassy space invite visitors to stay awhile.
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“One of the exercises here is thinking about, ‘What does it mean to have an outdoor space at an art museum in Austin?’ And having something like a patio felt much more in keeping with who we are as a city,” Wicha said.
Behind the arches of the museum’s main building, is artist Carmen Herrera’s “Verde que te quiero verde (Green How I Desire You Green).” The geometric, and green, piece walks beside you as you head toward Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” outside.
Between “Austin” and Herrera’s mural, is a sound garden by artist Bill Fontana. The garden speaks to you with sounds from inside Barton Springs Pool, the bats under the South Congress Avenue bridge, a Cypress tree as water passes through it and more. And don’t worry, we asked: The sound garden will shut off each night at the same time the museum closes.
Visitors can also now walk all the way around Kelly’s “Austin.”
“One of my frustrations is that I hear so many wonderful things about our exhibitions, which are stellar, but if you ask people what they did before or after, they just kind of look at you really annoyed like, ‘I just want to get out of here.’ So we want people to make this a larger experience. Linger and hang out or come out before and then go into the galleries,” Wicha said.
The Blanton’s grand opening celebration
When: Saturday, May 13 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Moody Patio at the Blanton Museum of Art, 200 East Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
How: The grand opening party is free to the public, but you must RSVP online at: blantonmuseum.org. Entry to the museum’s galleries and special exhibits will still require an admission ticket.
For more information, visit: blantonmuseum.org.