Department of Art and Art History News

Visual Art Studies students visit The Floating Piers during Learning Tuscany study abroad program in Italy

Thu. September 8, 2016

“Once we set foot on the dock, we were greeted by hundreds of people fighting their way to leave and to start their journey upon the water.”


three students on fabric of Christo's Floating Piers project


For four Visual Art Studies students, traveling to Tuscany through the Study in Italy program turned out to be incredibly more than what they bargained for. During the Learning Tuscany program, students and faculty are based in a small town in Eastern Tuscany. In this location they are uniquely positioned to visit and take in the rich cultural sites of many of the great art cities in central Italy. Michelle Zhou, Elysium Gonzales, Anabell Horton and Anamarie Delgado joined the program excited to tour the famous museums and historical sights, while putting their educational practice into a greater art historical context. And they did! But they also were given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Floating Piers.

The Floating Piers is a large-scale public art project conceived by internationally known artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Thirty years in the making, and the first project from Christo since Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009, The Floating Piers spans a three-kilometer walkway across Lake Iseo and the two and a half kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio. For many of the students, this was beyond compare, “As a girl whose family has never stepped foot on international waters, this one-of-a-kind experience of traveling to Italy and seeing The Floating Piers has given me a special kind of privilege,” writes Elysium Gonzales. “Knowing that this unique exhibition was temporary, and that we had arrived on only the second day of its opening was something I never would have dreamed of doing.”

The four students spent long hours of traveling and waiting to experience The Floating Piers, but ultimately found the experience worthwhile. “Being fortunate to see The Floating Piers and Studying Abroad in Italy has made be believe that I am capable of doing anything,” one of the students, Anamarie Delgado, writes while reflecting on the experience. “I had always seen studying abroad as a possibility, but never thought that I would actually be able to have the experience. But I am so glad that I let those worries go and just let myself experience the opportunity. This is what I hope to teach my future students. I want them to know that they should not limit themselves on what they think they can and cannot do. They should just take an opportunity that comes in their life and pursue it.”

To read more about their trip to The Floating Piers, visit the Learning Tuscany blog.

Elizabeth McClellan honored with this year’s UMLAUF Prize and exhibition

Wed. September 7, 2016

EchindaLabs woman with skin modifications

EchindaLabs, performance-based installation work of Elizabeth McClellan (M.F.A. Studio Art, 2016) will be featured with previous UMLAUF prizewinners in the UMLAUF 25th anniversary retrospective exhibition November 4, 2016 – January 29, 2017.

Don Bacigalupi, founding president of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and juror of the 2016 UMLAUF Prize, selected M.F.A. graduate Elizabeth McClellan as this year’s winner. In Bacigalupi’s statement, he remarked, EchindaLabs is a complex, multi-faceted Gesamtkunstwerk by Elizabeth McClellan that reflects the extraordinary boundary-breaking creativity seen in some of today’s most advanced and cross-disciplinary art practices.” He adds, “the work operates in the nexus of art and medical science, a fertile territory staked out previously by artists as diverse as ORLAN and Virgil Wong. Complex ethical issues abound in the real world of rapidly advancing genome-editing technologies, and McClellan capably invites us in for consideration.”

When museum visitors walk onto the set of EchindaLabs, they will learn about genetic skin modifications and explore the possibilities of using viral biomes to decorate the skin through a series of videos, brochures, photographs and human interaction with the “EchindaLabs receptionist”. McClellan created the experience based on the recent innovations in gene editing technology and her fascination with its implications on politics, science and the future of our bodies.

Exhibition Opening is Friday, November 4 from 5–7pm.

Visual Arts Center Announces Departure of Director Jade Walker

Tue. September 6, 2016


Jade Walker

Visual Arts Center Announces Departure of Director Jade Walker

The Department of Art and Art History and Visual Arts Center has announced that Jade Walker is stepping down as director of the Visual Arts Center as of October 3, 2016. Walker has been with the Visual Arts Center (VAC) since its nascence in 2010 and shaped it into the cultural pillar of Austin that it is today.

Before the VAC, Jade Walker was the director at the Creative Research Laboratory, a site for contemporary art and design by students and faculty in the Department of Art and Art History located on Austin’s eastside. Walker’s tenure at Creative Research Laboratory and the VAC is a testament to her belief in elevating educational experiences with working artists for students at The University of Texas at Austin, making the white cube a natural extension of the classroom. By commissioning new work by emerging artists, and providing access and transparency to the student population, the VAC affords students a unique vantage point into an artists’ and designer’s practice while pushing artists themselves in directions they may not otherwise have ventured. Likewise, signature programs like Art in Practice and the newly founded Fieldwork have made the VAC a critical site for professional development and practical application of classroom lessons.

Educational opportunities at the VAC abound, from four graduate assistantships facilitating all aspects of the gallery exhibition process to the Center Space Project undergraduate curatorial organization; the VAC, under Walker’s helm, has engaged students as colleagues and co-creators. Lastly, the VAC has extended its reach beyond the university campus, reaching out to community partners and international artists to share different perspectives with local audiences.

Walker will be leaving to pursue work on other projects. She leaves the gallery with a reputation as a site for research, education, and contemporary experimentation in visual art.

Review of Susan Rather's The American School published in Critical Inquiry

Tue. September 6, 2016

Susan Rather's book cover for The American School

Bryan J. Wolf, Professor Emeritus of American Art and Culture for Stanford University, reviewed Susan Rather's The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era for Critical Inquiry. Critical Inquiry is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the best critical thought in the arts and humanities.

Visual Art Studies students intern across the world, from San Marcos and Austin to New York and Italy

Mon. September 5, 2016


Work from students at Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos
Work from students at Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos

Junior Tanya Gantiva and Senior Paulina Dosal-Terminel, Visual Art Students undergraduates, worked at the Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos. Gantiva and Dosal-Terminel interned as art directors for the institute’s free summer camp for youth. As a part of the Indigenous Cultures Institute’s mission to research and preserve indigenous culture, the summer camp offers youth a chance to learn about indigenous arts and their indigenous identities through hands-on workshops and projects.

“The whole process was such an incredible learning experience for me as an educator, artist and human being,” Paulina Dosal-Terminel writes. “Teaching art using indigenous methods, as well as working with a group of extremely talented individuals to guide students' on a path of learning that is both encouraging of individuality and conscious of the collective home we all share, really opened my eyes to how art is present in every moment of our lives.”

Madi Beavers (Visual Art Studies, 2018) interned at The Contemporary in Austin, working with the museum’s teen program. Over the course of the summer, Beavers learned the ins and outs of writing teacher materials and designing educational initiatives tailored toward a teen demographic. Ultimately, Beavers and her team of high school students created inventive zines as a product of their experiments, discussion and experience.

Julia Caswell at CMA
Julia Caswell at CMA

Julia Caswell (Visual Art Studies, 2017) had a fantastic summer internship as a School Programs Intern for The Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York (CMA). Working in collaboration with other nonprofits and arts organizations in New York, Caswell facilitated art-making inspired by interdisciplinary themes of CMA exhibits. Her work on a public art mural project is highlighted on the Children’s Museum of Art’s website.


Lastly, Visual Art Studies students traveled to Italy with Art History professor Dr. Ann Johns and made a brave journey to see Christo’s Floating Piers.

Through these internships, Visual Art Studies students are given the opportunity to practice pedagogy in the field, exploring the connections between trends in visual arts and contemporary art education.