“It’s open, it’s accessible, it’s welcoming”: the Blanton Museum opens plaza, renovations after three years of construction

Pili Saravia, General News Reporter

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included an inaccurate description of the petals and the materials they are made of. Changes have been made to accurately describe them. The Texan regrets this error. 


Those letters, scrawled across the side of the Blanton Museum, give visitors a taste of the vibrant art inside before they even walk in. After a decade of planning, the Blanton Museum of Art opened a new space between its two main buildings to create a more inviting intersection between students and the Austin community. 

“We’re at this gateway between the city and the state and UT,” said Carlotta Stankiewicz, Blanton’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “So we should have this welcoming experience that represents the transition between the city and UT.”

Stankiewicz said that Austinites can work, eat, and experience the museum in the new plaza without entering the front door. Live music from the two new stages and the buzz from the sound garden fill the space. Visitors will soon be able to enjoy the new cafe, and three-story-tall petal-shaped structures also provide shade for those below. 

Architecture firm Snøhetta, which led the renovation project, designed the petal structures with sustainability in mind. The petals create shade and route rainwater to a collection area of native plantings near the southeast corner of the grounds. The petals’ tall arches frame the Texas Capitol and “Austin” by Ellsworth Kelly, one of the main attractions at the Blanton. John Newman, UT alumnus and director and senior architect at Snøhetta, said these arches echo the arches around campus. Similarly, the petals are made of a cream-colored fiberglass compound to match the University’s architecture.

“This is where familiarity with the campus played in,” Newman said. “(The arches and color) made them feel like they were part of the UT campus, even though they were brand new.”

For K-12 students arriving on a school bus, Stankiewicz said the museum added a drop-off circle at the back of the Blanton and a pathway lined with mature oak trees from the Brazos Parking Garage to the museum for a more artistic and walkable experience. 

“When you come from the garage, there is a pathway that leads you through those oaks,” Stankiewicz said. “So it’s this beautiful approach to the museum.”

Along this path, visitors will first see Kay Rosen’s Texan greeting through her mural “HI.” Rosen said that this play-on-words hopes to evoke cheeriness and surprise from the playful message with bright blue and yellow colors. 

“I think it’s interesting how HI emerges from the formless alphabetical sequence ABCDEFG,” Rosen said in an email. “It reminds me of how a sculpture takes shape from a block of marble or wood.”

Other new pieces include Carmen Herrera’s last work, “Verde Que Te Quiero Verde (Green How I Want You Green).” Paralleling the green mural, the space between Jester and the Blanton hosts The Butler Sound Gallery, which plays nature sounds that represent Texas, like those of Barton Springs, purple martins and bats. 

“(I want people to feel) invited and inspired,” Stankiewicz said. “It’s the appetizer to going inside, so (I want them to feel) like the outside matches the inside.”