Extending a string of extraordinary gifts, the Moody Family Foundation has given $20 million to the Blanton Museum of Art to transform the grounds of its three-building complex on the south end of the University of Texas campus.
In just the past few years, the foundation has bestowed tens of millions to the Contemporary Austin, Waller Creek Conservancy, Pease Park Conservancy, AIDS Services of Austin, YMCA, UT’s Moody School of Communications and other groups.
The Blanton gift is one of the largest grants to any Austin cultural entity and to any project for the city’s outdoor spaces.
The most recent gift, announced before a stunned crowd at the annual Blanton Gala, will help reevaluate and transform the museum’s exterior spaces.
It will be designed by the New York office of the architecture firm, Snøhetta, which is run by UT graduates Craig Dykers and Elaine Molinar, who will receive the Texas Medal of Arts at ceremonies Feb. 26-27. The design is meant to connect the museum to the surrounding university campus and to the emerging Capitol Corridor to the south.
Just last year, the Blanton completed its biggest single project to date, Ellsworth Kelly’s $23 million “Austin,” a temple to light and color that has become an international destination.
“We are now on the world stage,” Blanton Director Simone Wicha said inside a heated, transparent gala tent in sight of “Austin,” the late abstract artist Kelly’s only building project. "We are deeply grateful to Blanton National Leadership Board member Elle Moody for being an ardent champion of the museum and to the full board of the foundation for their visionary investment in this transformative project."
Elle Moody, daughter of Ross Moody, the Austin businessman and philanthropist who serves as the family foundation’s oftentimes spokesman, was present to help launch the gift.
"As a young visitor growing up in Austin, this museum taught me that art is a vital social force to inspire and unite communities," said Elle Moody, a foundation trustee. "The Blanton continues to make great strides in bringing world-class art experiences to visitors from Central Texas and beyond, and we are honored to support this exciting next chapter."
Present for the dinner announcement were UT President Gregory L. Fenves, new UT System Chancellor James Milliken and Mayor Steve Adler along with other dignitaries and backers.
“This is one of the city’s cultural pillars,” Adler said. “When people ask what five places they should visit in Austin, I say two things that didn’t exist that long ago: the Central Library and Kelly’s ‘Austin.’”
Wicha reeled off some of the museum’s other major accomplishments of late, including a complete rethinking of the permanent collection, the acquisition of works of national import, such as Vincent Valdez’s “The City” and 119 objects from a prominent collection of art from Spanish and Portuguese Americas, as well as its likely first exhibition to premiere at a major museum elsewhere, the Museo Reina Sofia, Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art.
In fact, the museum’s current show, “Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton,” a text-based exhibition previewed by the gala guests Saturday, was put together to replace its planned show about the avant-garde networks in Argentina, Peru and Mexico in the 1920s that the Reina Sofia wanted so badly. After its premiere in Spain, it will return to its home museum in Austin in February 2020.