A quick guide to art on campus for incoming students

Helen Galli

“The Color Inside”

The Color Inside” by James Turrell, sits atop the Student Activity Center. Opened a few years after the building was opened, the installation gives specific attention to the organization of the structures and walkways in the oddly shaped place. “The Color Inside” is one from a series of hundreds all over the world, known as Turrell’s “Skyspaces.” This series follows the pattern of a precisely designed chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky. It is open on certain days during the week at sunset. The idea behind Turrell’s art is to bring together space and light, both natural and artificial. The light of the sunset and sunrise are key components in viewing this piece.


Gifted to the city by the late artist Ellsworth Kelly, Austin is a monument adorned with international artistry, such as colorful glass windows, limestone, marble and live oak. While “Austin” may feel out of place next to the dreary PCL and Jester halls, this piece of art has had moving effects on visitors. Ellsworth Kelly was loved by many for his art, and Austin was released just two years after his death as his final piece and only structure. “Austin” is free to students everyday of the week and is free to all on Thursdays.

“Ancestral Modern”

At the bottom of campus where Speedway dead ends into MLK Boulevard is the Blanton Museum of Art. It is the largest collection of international permanent and traveling art in Austin, and this means it is host to fine art banquets and big purchases. The current traveling exhibition on view is called “Ancestral Modern.” It features paintings and sculptures from the early ’90s and 2000s made by Australian aboriginal artists. The detail of these paintings is fine and intricate, as with a million tiny dots composing a larger picture, minuscule lines and vibrant colors. It is a bright collection of works and will be on display through Sept. 9. 

“Monochrome for Austin”

“Monochrome for Austin,” by Nancy Rubins, is the enormous canoe structure outside the Norman Hackerman Building just off Speedway. Every canoe is made of aluminum, all held together by an intricate web of steel rope. The idea behind the piece is to show the complexity of how things are held together. Literally, a viewer engages with an intricate design, but on a larger scale, the piece remarks on the fabric that holds together what we can and cannot see. The inspiration for “Monochrome for Austin” comes from the materials themselves. Aluminum is cheaper to recycle than to mine, and so every element of the sculpture has come from somewhere else. The material itself has a life, evoking the life of the individuals or masses that share it. 


The Visual Art Center is located directly north of the football stadium. Inside, a large gallery space, auditorium and courtyard host events open to students year round. Its mission as an arts center is to be a space where students and academics can attend lectures, workshops, screenings and exhibitions in order to develop the processes for learning and teaching studio art, art history and art education. The VAC is a great place to attend artists’ lectures and to engage with art students and
their work.