Blanton’s Fifty Fest celebrates fifty years

Olivia Arena

Fifty Fest is more than a few students on a lawn. The 12-hour festival of art, food trucks and interactive activities for students celebrates Blanton Museum of Art’s 50 years of fostering a creative community. 

The Blanton is hosting Fifty Fest this Saturday, which brings together musicians, artists and art enthusiasts from the UT campus and the Austin community. Activities range from poetry readings to discussions with photographers. 

“The Blanton is a university art museum that also identifies itself as a site for creativity,” Samantha Youngblood, the Blanton’s manager of public relations and marketing, said. “Many of our past and current programs are centered around the idea that a song, dance, or poem can be inspired by or respond to a work of art.”

Student groups were asked to draw inspiration from the art and create a performance for the event. These artists range in style, background, and influence, but each will help explain how their creative process works. For example, the Texas Reed Trio is having an “open rehearsal” to involve audiences in their piece creation.  

“It’s like what a string quartet would do in rehearsal when they work on a new piece — interrupt each other when something’s not working, argue about the right way to get through a tough section, start and stop, and be more informal with each other than you’d ever see them be onstage,” said Adam Bennett, Blanton’s manager of public program. 

Student entertainers like the Ransom Notes, an a cappella group, hope to bring their own artistic appreciation to Fifty Fest. As part of their mission to enrich the lives of members and audiences, Ransom Notes agreed to help celebrate. 

“I think the Blanton contributes an artistic escape that is close to campus. Somewhere people can go to separate themselves from the chaos of day-to-day activities and appreciate something beautiful,” saod Lexi Bixler, an economics senior and Ransom Notes singer.

Other performers bring a cultural response to Fifty Fest. Ezekiel Castro, director of UT Mariachi Ensemble, admires the collection of Latin American works represented at the Blanton. 

“Performing at The Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin Fifty Fest is an honor — a grand celebration. The University of Texas Mariachi Ensemble, Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlan, has prepared music that is festive and embraces the artistic ambiance of this occasion,” Castro wrote in an email. 

The festival coincides with the 50th anniversary exhibition “Through the Eyes of Texas.” Alumni from around the world donated the works displayed in the show. Much like the exhibit, the performances at Fifty Fest show the breadth of the Blanton’s collections. 

“As a Hispanic, I am impressed with the Latin American collection of modern and contemporary art which contains more than 1,800 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures,” Castro said. “These works of art reflect the diversity of Latin American art and culture.”

Blanton hosts programs that push students to become involved in art. 

“They’re not just warehouses that store artworks created centuries ago — museums are places were creativity happens every day. Artists create new art in museums that respond to the art inside,” Bennett said.

Fifty Fest strives to inspire visitors by showing an interactive side of the Blanton, and artists provide a rare glimpse into their creative processes. 

“Making something new with the visual experience that you get at the Blanton is what our public programs try to facilitate,” Bennett said. “If someone walks away from Fifty Fest and writes, paints, dances or makes a film about something she saw or heard at the Blanton, then our public programs are doing what they’re supposed to do.”