Department of Art and Art History Austin

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Nov 29

Lisa Laughlin Boyd: Supporting Diversity in the Arts

Thu. November 17, 2016

two people looking at artwork

Lisa Laughlin Boyd grew up around art and around those who created artwork. Attending Fort Worth Country Day School in Dallas, she would take the evening classes in drawing and sculpture at what is currently The Modern in Fort Worth. At the beginning of her undergraduate career, she attended Vanderbilt University before realizing that she wanted to pursue art history in earnest and transferred to The University of Texas at Austin. What she realized then, and continues to emphasize today, about the strength of the UT Department of Art and Art History was its diversity in course offerings and intellectual excellence. Over the course of her B.F.A. in Art History (1972), she was able to take courses in art history, studio art and design. The experience would influence her choice to continue on at UT, earning her master’s degree in art history (1976) where she focused on contemporary American architecture. “I had an advisor, Blake Alexander, who was the Architectural Historian in the School of Architecture as well as Dr. Tom Reese, who would later go on to the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities. They helped me craft my master’s thesis on the work of Louis Kahn, specifically The Kimbell Art Museum and the Yale Center for British Art.”

But like other students who graduate from the Department of Art and Art History, Boyd’s life took an interesting turn. Some time after completing her master’s degree, Boyd went on to earn her M.B.A. in financial planning and become a Financial Planner in Dallas. She was brought back to Austin, and to her love of the arts, by the work of the administration at the Department of Art and Art History. “It was so exciting for me to be back in that [academic] environment where you work scholastically every day,” she said. “It was stimulating and different from what I was doing at home. I had a few friends on the council at that time and I just became very enthusiastic about bringing others aboard. Eventually, I just loved Austin enough to buy a lot and build a house and move here.”

As a society and as individuals, we’re at a moment when we’re being asked to invest socially and politically in the issues that matter to us. So we had to ask: How do you see the Director’s Council growing in the coming years and how can people get involved? “Well, first, you have to have the time,” said Boyd. “I always stress how much time you have to invest in the council and how much you get in return in terms of learning about your institution and your connections with UT.”

“In terms of where we’re going, the council is really looking to diversify, both in terms of experience with the University or Texas, and even with the arts,” said Boyd. “It’s important to get new blood and hear new voices.”

Boyd is a mainstay at Visual Arts Center events and the annual Open Studios, where the department opens its doors so that the public can get a glimpse of the work and workspaces of M.F.A. candidates in Studio Art and Design. A firm believer in supporting young artists across all disciplines, Boyd looks for work that stays with her long after initial viewing. “I don’t think of myself as a collector, per se,” Boyd said. “But I do collect.” As a practicing artist, Boyd prefers to paint representationally. However, when collecting works to decorate her own home, Boyd selects abstract works that challenge her. “It's all part of this huge tapestry of talent and creativity, you know?” Boyd reflected. “Back in the '60s or '70s, it might not have been considered valid to draw the figure or draw a landscape. But contemporary taste and criticism prize diversity and an appreciation for all sorts of expressions that enrich our lives.”

Boyd’s support for the arts, the Department of Art and Art History and individual artists’ work—whether in the form of an M.F.A. candidates’ work, the Director’s Council, or collaborating with architect Michael Hsu on the design of her home—comes from a sense that people should live with the objects that move them, that take them out of their own lives and enrich their experience. 

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