Art in Austin

More than 20 galleries, large and small, are scattered throughout the city, offering a wide array of art forms from contemporary or fine art, Southwestern to Mexican themed paintings, as well as glasswork, sculpture, ceramics, and photography.  But if traditional galleries and museums make you uncomfortable, a visit to either of these two venues will change your mind about art appreciation.  Both make good use of Austin’s natural beauty in a user-friendly environment.

Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria

Only minutes from downtown, Laguna Gloria seems worlds away.  There’s nothing stuffy or whisper-quiet about this place; in fact, most exploring is done outdoors and on your own schedule.

Mansion at Laguna Gloria

Set on 12 acres of prime land overlooking lovely Lake Austin, Laguna Gloria preserves the tranquil feeling of stepping back in time.  At the heart of the grounds is the Italian-style villa built by Clara Driscoll and her husband Henry Sevier in 1916.  Visitors can tour the restored villa and view intimate, not overwhelming, exhibitions inside that focus on art and nature.

In addition to art displays, the villa provides a lesson in history.  Constructed on a high promontory overlooking the lake, it contains unusual features like a two-story ballroom with a minstrel gallery and fireplace alcove.  The mantel above the fireplace is a rafter from the Alamo, and two original Capitol gates adorn the main entrance.  A wishing well from Tuscany and scored concrete floors were novel additions for the time.

Lake Austin as seen from paths at Laguna Gloria

Outside, stroll the grounds, including formal gardens surrounding the villa and the rustic lower gardens featuring a wide variety of plants and natural terrain.  The landscape is a microcosm of the local ecology including a flood plain meadow, oak ridge, wetlands, marshlands, shady groves, and a breathtaking expanse of riverscape.  The setting is perfect inspiration for local artists, and a variety of classes are held on site.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

Adjacent to Zilker Park is an exquisite sanctuary for anyone who loves beautiful art and peaceful landscaping.  More than 130 pieces by Charles Umlauf, world-renowned sculptor and former University of Texas professor, are displayed in natural outdoor settings as well as the indoor gallery. Exhibits change periodically and feature works ranging in style from realistic to lyrical abstracts.

Outdoor paths of Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Wander leisurely on lush paths in the almost-secret wooded urban area while admiring sculptures of children, animals, and religious figures cast in bronze, stone, terra cotta, and exotic woods.  By
gifting their home, studio, paintings, and sculptures to the city in 1985, the Umlaufs provided a rare treasure—a lovely, serene place for people who normally don’t visit galleries to view fine art.

Family was important to Umlauf, as seen in sculptures like the one pictured here that honor endearing relationships. So it’s fitting that a special family arts festival called Umlaufaloopa is scheduled to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the  Sculpture Garden and Museum as well as the 100th birthday of Charles Umlauf on October 22-23.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

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