UT Set to Unveil New Landmark
Story by Kate Orlowski and Bobby Blanchard. Video by Claire Hogan
There is something about a well-worn, aluminum canoe that invokes feelings of nostalgia or of one’s childhood, but dozens of canoes is a different story. That is exactly what Nancy Rubins’ ‘Monochrome for Austin,’ the latest addition to the Landmarks program, is.
UT Landmarks is a public art program at UT-Austin. The program is responsible for decorating the entire campus with visuals — many of which are sculpture, but some are more abstract. It is funded by a small percentage of the capital cost of new construction and major renovations.
Rubins, a Texas native, has always experimented when it came to art and feels comfortable making things out of anything from household appliances to airplane parts. The newly completed work of art is continually on display but a special opening party will take place on Thursday, March 5. Scholars say her art can be described as conceptual with a striking balance in both presence and grace.
Students have been inquisitively watching Rubins work come to life on the corner of Speedway and 24th Street in front of the Norman Hackerman Building. The artwork draws stares, pictures and contemplative head tilts as students and faculty scurry by on their way to and from class.
A subliminal message, many may not be aware of, is the striking resemblance of the steel foliage to period warplanes. In fact many of the cantilevered canoes were manufactured by Grumman Corporation, a military producer of the jet planes and ammunition. It is that kind of thinking which Rubins seeks to instill in her viewers as they study a piece of her work.
Stainless steel lines and hardware hold the aluminum canoes together. ‘Monochrome for Austin’ seems to defy the laws of gravity as they are taught on the very campus it resides. The Lankmark piece ended up costing approximately $1.4 million to complete and install.
Andree Bober, the director of UT Landmarks, says the program does not just provide great sights on campus, but it also provides an educational value to students.
“The principal function that it serves is a resource for students and scholars of visual art, much the same way that laborite equipment is used by scientists,” Bober said. “What makes it very different from other type of resources is it isn’t locked around in classrooms or tucked away in libraries, it’s out in the public to be seen.”
Organizations like the Landmark Program rely heavily on funding to fuel their creative endeavors but volunteers are the real driving force behind the organization. Many patrons of the arts also like to give back by donating to support the causes they care about but volunteering takes patronage to the next level.
There are two primary volunteer opportunities: the Landmarks Docents and the Landmarks Preservation Guild. Volunteers are primarily students, especially of the Preservation Guild Program where they receive academic credit for completing the academic, yearlong program.
Docents contribute time, energy and ideas to make the program accessible to the university and visitors of campus. Docents contribute two to three hours per month to lead tours of the various Landmarks on campus for the public and private events as well as and attend meetings.
Members of the Preservation Guild are volunteer interns who spend their time keeping a watchful eye of the Landmarks in order to maintain the works in the collection. They devote time and energy to preserve works of public art so they may be enjoyed by future generations. They attend training sessions led by a conservator and create condition reports on the status of the art.
Nick Nobel, the Landmark’s External Affairs Coordinator, describes the art in the collection.
“Works in the Landmarks collection come via a long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and commissions and purchases from world-renowned contemporary artists,” Nobel said. “[Volunteers can] see the artist’s work process, and attend special events with the artists.”
Some of the perks of being a volunteer are that in addition to being surrounded by beautiful and intriguing art all the time, you also have the opportunity to visit sites during the installation process. This is an exceptional opportunity for students interested in the arts and want to gain real world experience and connections in the art world.
If seeing the art in more than just passing by for class is something you are interested in, there are regular public docent tours on the first Sunday of every month as well as for special parties or individual class sessions. This is also where you can see the volunteers in action and find out if it is something you would be interested in as well.
Bober said the Landmarks program plans to continue to grow on campus.
“We’ll continue to engage students and the public in those works,” Bober said.
The Nancy Rubins Monochrome for Austin Celebration and Q&A will kick off at 5:30pm with a public Q&A with artist Nancy Rubins and scholar Nancy Princenthal in the Norman Hackerman Building Auditorium and conclude with a celebratory reception on the Norman Hackerman Building Patio beginning at 6:30pm.