Outdoor Art in 3D
As the weather warms up, it’s a great time to get the kiddos and head outdoors. And in Austin, art is in the air (and on the grass and beside the lake and next to the library…). Private and public community visionaries have made Austin a place with a ton of artistic treasure. Indoors, in traditional galleries, certainly. But did you know how much fine art we have outdoors in Austin? For a taste of Austin’s sculpture scene, check out these local destinations.
My favorite public art sculpture is called “Crullers,” by Texas artist Sharon Englestein. The pieces are open to interpretation, like all art. I found the forms to be reminiscent of hippos and elephants, though I wondered if the name signaled an association to curvy donuts! The “Big Mama Baby” form stands close to “Little Mama” on grass near Central Library, while “Tall Solo” stands at 3rd Street and West Ave., waiting on the mamas. “Open Room” is another art installation along the walking tour located at 200 Sandra Muraida Way. This unique installation features a massive, sprawling table with a “tablecloth,” benches, and four tall chandeliers. This expansive outdoor dining area art piece is intended to be a social sculpture, with space for viewers to interact with the piece, sit and converse, and dissolve the bonds between art and life. Picnic, anyone?
Figures near Water
There is just something startling and inspiring about the juxtaposition of artistic creations and nature. The Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria is Contemporary Austin’s wonderful outdoor space— a complement to the Jones Center, the Contemporary Austin’s downtown gallery. The park is a welcoming art-in-nature site in the heart of the city. The Marcus Foundation gift allows the commission, exhibition and acquisition of new works of art by contemporary artists, as well as the preservation of the works and grounds. See pieces like “Water Woman,” a 36 x 65 x 70” dark bronze figure languidly reclining on a grassy bank of the lagoon. Kids and adults may be inspired to strike a pose alongside Water Woman, or to sketch or mold something original of their own. Created by artist Wangechi Muli, “Water Woman” is breathtaking, and she isn’t alone. There are many other pieces you will enjoy seeing. The Contemporary’s Sculpture Park spans 14 acres at 3809 W. 35th St. There are free art-making workshops on the second Saturday each month, and drop-in tours on first Mondays. Kids under 18 are admitted free. For more information, visit www.thecontemporaryaustin.org.
Beauty in Bold
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is a world-class outdoor museum that is very family-friendly.. In 1985 sculptor and UT art professor Charles Umlauf and his wife Angeline donated their home, studio, and 168 sculptures next to Zilker Park to the City of Austin. The land is xeriscaped featuring landscaping and gardening that reduces the need for water via irrigation. Staff and volunteers maintain the Umlauf, which features a pond, waterfalls, and native plants. Some of the sculptures are bronze and meant to be touched—a departure from most museums with their “don’t touch” rules. Discover other bold pieces like “The Pointed Sphere,” a 30″-diameter limestone and glass orb by the late Texas artist Damian Priour. Located at 605 Azie Morton Rd., the museum also hosts Family Day at the Umlauf on the second Sunday of each month from noon to 4 p.m. The day is designed for families and friends to explore and create with a line-up of kid-friendly activities and performances. For more information, visit umlaufsculpture.com.
Giants on Land
Austin Art in Public Spaces (AIPP), established in 1985, made Austin the first Texas city to commit 2% of all construction project budgets to allocating art for the site. AAIP collaborates with artists to provide original art for the airport, convention center, libraries, police stations, recreation centers, and streetscapes. A great way to see many of these public art pieces is to take the walkable, self-guided downtown tour of 32 art stops, ranging east of N. Lamar Blvd. and north of Lady Bird Lake. Free AIPP downtown walking tours can be accessed on Google Maps.