Art is alive and well in Austin

More than 20 galleries, large and small, are scattered throughout the city, offering a wide array of art forms from contemporary and fine art, Southwestern to Mexican themed paintings, as well as glasswork, sculpture, ceramics, and photography.

The performing arts are alive and well in Austin.  For classical tastes, Austinprovides ballet and contemporary dance companies, a world-renown symphony, lyric opera, and touring Broadway shows.  All these have contributed to Austin’s being named a U. S. Arts Destination.

Here are two of Austin’s unique art venues:

Clara Driscoll's Italian villa at Laguna Gloria

Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria:  If you’ve never set foot inside an art museum—and never wanted to—this one may change your mind.  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.  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.  Outside, stroll the grounds, including the formal gardens surrounding the villa and the rustic lower gardens featuring a wide variety of plants and natural terrain.  The grounds are a microcosm of the local ecology including a flood plain meadow, oak ridge, wetlands, marshlands, shady groves, and a breathtaking expanse of river landscape.

View of Lake Austin from Laguna Gloria--great scenery for artists and visitors

The restored villa provides a lesson in history.  Constructed on a high promontory overlooking Lake Austin, 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 fromTuscany and scored concrete floors were novel additions for the time.

Outdoor sculpture at Umlauf Sculpture Garden

 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 indoors. Exhibits change periodically and feature works ranging in style from realistic to lyrical abstraction.

Wander leisurely on paths in the almost-secret wooded urban area while admiring figures 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 sometimes overlooked treasure—a beautiful, serene place for people who normally don’t visit galleries to soak up some art appreciation.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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