Department of Art and Art History News

Students find la bella vita in Tuscany

Wed. August 27, 2014

Group of students on tour

Every summer, students in the Department of Art and Art History leave the confines of the UT Forty Acres for the Italian countryside. Through the department’s Learning Tuscany study abroad program, students spend six weeks in the region to experience Italian culture, see famous works of art, and surmount the hurdles of doing laundry in a foreign country.

“I want the students to ... push themselves to use both the challenges and charms of Italy to develop an increased self-awareness and confidence,” said Art History professor Ann Johns, who has managed the Learning Tuscany program since 2006.

Johns travels abroad each summer with a colleague from Studio Art—this year, professor Leslie Mutchler—and leads between 20–25 students through Italy. The program’s home base is in the small town of Castiglion Fiorentino, but they also travel to area cities such as Florence and Rome.

“I was striving to engage students in an active investigation of Italy and the phenomenon of travel through the process of making handmade books and zines,” Mutchler said, “I wanted our students to broaden their understanding of art (and themselves) in the context of travel.”

Mutchler asked the students to collect printed ephemera. They then constructed mobile wunderkammer to house and curate those collections. Cara Stamp, M.A. candidate in Art History, said of Mutchler’s assignments, “Her planned projects really forced us to get to know Italy and especially our hometown, and it was a much-needed push that really brought the trip to the next level.”

The students are not the only ones who face challenges in Italy. “It can be very difficult for me to talk to students on-site,” said Johns, “For example, we can't talk in the Sistine Chapel. We also visit museums, such as the Vatican museums or the Uffizi museum, that are so huge that it's virtually impossible to keep everyone together.”

To solve this problem, Johns created a series of venue-specific podcasts that serve as individual audio guides. She explained, “The podcasts allow students to move through large collections at their own pace and listen to ‘me’ when they've arrived, for example, in the Raphael Stanze in the Vatican Museums.”

Mimi Richardson, B.F.A. candidate in Design, found the recordings helpful. “It made visits in the museum pleasant, as you could tune out all of the distractions around you by just using your headphones. I loved that I could move at my own pace and linger on what seemed most interesting to me.”

Learning Tuscany students and faculty take group picture in front of building

Learning Tuscany provides a foundation from which the students explore Italy independently, Kristyn Coster, B.A. candidate in Studio Art, said, “By providing a few language lessons and allowing us to figure out certain aspects of Italian life on our own, we developed a closer bond with the culture and the people.”

"Traveling to an alien place has a way of erasing social barriers and allowing you to forge truly awesome friendships,” said Allie Swaar, B.F.A. candidate in Studio Art, “Sharing an incredible, terrifying, and wonderful experience with people I would have never come into contact with in Austin, but who will now remain my friends for years to come.”

More information:

  • An exhibition of artworks by the Learning Tuscany students will be on display September 19 through October 3 at the Visual Arts Center as part of Fieldwork Projects.
  • Meet the 2015 Learning Tuscany class with the Flying Longhorns on a 14 day trip with tours lead by faculty from the Department of Art and Art History.
  • Listen to Learning Tuscany podcasts on iTunesU (link will open in iTunes).

In memory of Rebecca Brooks

Wed. August 27, 2014

Woman in hat sitting at a restaurant table

Students and friends remember Professor Emeritus Rebecca Brooks as a woman with a passion and spirit for teaching. Brooks passed away earlier this year on May 21. She joined the Department of Art and Art History in 1976 and retired 33 years later, in 2009.

Brooks attended Travis High School in Austin, Texas, then went on to receive three degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. In 1968, she completed her Bachelor of Fine Art in Art. She went on to complete a Master of Fine Art in Art in 1970 and Doctorate in Education in 1974.

Brooks taught in the Austin Independent School District before joining the university to coordinate the student teacher program for the Department of Art and Art History. She co-authored The Way of Art: Inner Vision, Outer Expression with Kelly Fearing and Emma Lea Mayton and wrote Through Their Eyes: A Sequentially Developed Art Program and Inside Art: Culture, History, Expression.

“Dr. Brooks was passionate about the connections between the arts and broader philosophical and theoretical perspectives. Today, I am working on my Ph.D. in Art Education at the University of North Texas and I must say that Dr. Brooks was a part of my motivation to pursue this degree,” Sarah Travis (M.A. Art Education, 2008) said, “In addition to being an excellent teacher, she was a formidable woman who traveled the world extensively and forged an impressive path for herself as a female in academia—a true inspiration.”

Professor Emeritus J. Ulbricht recalls Brooks’ good eye for antique prints, her talent as a pianist, and contributions to the community of the program.

“Rebecca was a dedicated art education professional with a great personality,” Ulbricht said, “She enriched her teaching and professional activities with interdisciplinary knowledge of philosophy, science, music, theater arts, travel, and student development. It was a pleasure to work with Rebecca at UT for 33 years.”

Alumna Adair Ewin receives internship at Aperture

Wed. August 27, 2014

Alumna headshot with field in background

Before Adair Ewin (B.F.A. Visual Art Studies, 2014) heads to New York City for an internship with Aperture, a prestigious photography foundation, we interviewed her over email to discuss her upcoming move and goals.

Please describe the Aperture Work Scholar internship you were selected for.

As the Education Work Scholar I will assist the Education Director with planning, promoting, and managing all of Aperture’s education programs. It is also the responsibility of our department to give tours of the gallery space and educate groups on the history of Aperture, which is an added bonus because we have visitors from all over the world.

It is truly a blessing that I will have the opportunity to be a part of this team because their vision for the education program is innovative and inspiring and the work environment is both challenging and creative.

You applied for this internship after attending the Texas Exes NYC Seminar. What was the most eye-opening thing you learned on the trip?

The seminar was absolutely amazing. I was exhausted at the beginning of my spring semester, so thank goodness Ann Paterra, who organizes the Arts Administration-Visual portion of the seminar, was so organized. She reviewed and revised our résumés, organized meeting with arts administrators in the city, and made sure we were all completely prepared for these meetings.

The meetings were like informational interviews with visual art administrators working in NYC. It was amazing to meet with such extraordinary people working in a variety of different fields and learn about how wholeheartedly dedicated they are to promoting the visual and performing arts.

Why did you choose to apply and how will the internship help you reach your long-term goals?

I chose to apply because Aperture’s mission to promote visual literacy is directly aligned with my own goals as an art educator. Aperture’s education programs are designed to provide students with the skills to visually communicate and understand the role that visual imagery plays in their daily lives while simultaneously learning about photography as an art form.

Also, I am certain that some day I will end up teaching in a classroom where I will inevitably have conversations with students about following their fears. A move to New York was never a part of my life plan, but I knew that I could not pass up the opportunity to work at Aperture Foundation

How did the Art Education / Visual Art Studies program prepare you for this challenge?

The program is exceptional because it is so progressive. The professors are conscious of how modern art education has evolved, which allows for its graduates to go out into the working world with a clear understanding of how to better the education system rather than simply follow the norm.

Moving to NYC usually means downsizing a bit – what items could you simply not leave in Texas?

My cowboy boots! Kidding, I only have one pair of cowboy boots and I wore them when I was six-years-old. Ha!

I could not leave my dad’s old Minolta. It’s a 35mm and I adore it because he used it when traveling abroad. I can make lovely pictures with it, but I’ll have to prepare for the cost of film and printing...sigh. I also plan on bringing with me a collection of articles I was made to read for my VAS classes. Even though I won’t be in the classroom, it is important to me that I stay current about changes in art education. Those are the main things, really. I have never been one to collect and hold on to a lot of stuff, so the downsizing shouldn’t be too difficult, thank goodness!

About the Aperture Work-Scholar Program:
The Stevan A. Baron Work-Scholar Program welcomes individuals to engage in Aperture’s programs and contribute to the editing, design, production, circulation, sales, and marketing of photography’s most significant publications; the development of major traveling exhibitions; the creation of web content; and all other business operations essential to a non-profit organization.

Jarrod Beck receives 2014 Clare Weiss Award

Wed. August 27, 2014

NYC Parks logo with oak leaf in circle

Jarrod Beck (M.F.A. Studio Art, 2007) received the 2014 Claire Weiss Award. The award recognizes emerging artists and allows their work to be installed in a NYC park. Beck will install his work in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park in the Lower Eastside.

Expansion provides students with opportunities in letterpress and bookbinding

Wed. August 27, 2014

Metal type in drawer

Over this summer, Design Lab Coordinator Kevin Auer and Visiting Assistant Professor Colin Frazer opened the doors of DESL2 and embarked upon a rejuvenation of the workshop. DESL2 (Design Lab 2) houses the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type collection and is equipped with printing, photography, and fabrication resources.

Assistant Chair of Design Carma Gorman is thrilled at the changes. She recalled that Auer and Frazer “had a vision for how to reconfigure and augment the space’s existing resources to better support both its teaching and research missions.”

Auer preps the Columbian press for delivery to department. Photo by Alicia Dietrich

New presses, additional type, and a rearrangement of the workshop are a few of the changes that will benefit students and faculty in the program. One of the most exciting acquisitions is a mid-nineteenth century Columbian handpress that will be on long-term loan from the Harry Ransom Center.

“The Ransom Center is delighted to have the Columbian iron handpress join the collection of Rob Roy Kelly’s wooden display type at the Design Division’s printing laboratory,” said Richard Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian at the Ransom Center. “This magnificent example of nineteenth-century printing technology will once again be in daily use. We look forward to collaborating with the Department on a variety of projects relating to printing and the book arts.”

Following a tip, Auer and Frazer found themselves in the university’s Document Solutions with Director Richard Beto, who saved numerous historic presses and type during his ten-year career at the university. Beto said, “How fortunate that the university has someone that values this lost art. I was fortunate that we could donate what we consider valuable tools in order for others to benefit.”

In addition to the Columbian press and the equipment from Document Solutions, David S. Rose of New York donated a Ludlow machine to the program, which will enable new type to be cast as use wears the collection. Rose heard about the need for the Ludlow through the tightknit letterpress community and offered the machine to the department.

Students from all areas of the department “can use the shop as part of a number of classes this fall that have letterpress and book binding components included in their syllabus,” said Auer. Gorman notes that the program’s letterpress and bookbinding resources “give UT students an edge over those who receive strictly digital training.”

"Letterpress printing slows down the process of graphic design and gives students time to consider typography and the three-dimensional aspect of typography," described Frazer, "For instance, our students can create their own wood type in the department's digital fabrication lab which pulls them away from the idea that graphic design is purely two-dimensional."

“Students who know something about letterpress are likely going to understand the concepts behind digital typography better than people who've never worked with metal type,” said Gorman, observing that “people who can ‘think’ in both analog and digital media, and who do have decent hand skills, have a distinct advantage over people who can work only in digital media.”