AUSTIN, TexasA program where fine arts students take their creativity back into their Texas hometowns has been initiated by The University of Texas at Austin to build new audiences for art and music in rural areas of the state and to foster better relationships between artists and their constituencies.
The new “artsreach” program will allow students to establish residencies in their home communities and present overviews of their work. The selected students will come from non-urban areas of Texas and will be chosen from each of the fine arts academic units art, art history, music, theater and dance. The University Co-op is providing the initial funding for the project.
“We want this program to have as wide a community impact as possible,” said Dr. Robert Freeman, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Students will work with local schools and schoolchildren, arts organizations, chamber of commerce associations and churches to develop new audiences for art and demonstrate the benefits and results of a fine arts education at the university.
“We must always remember that the arts aren’t just for the people who are doing them or for the wealthy but for everyone,” said Freeman. “The nation is doing a good job supplying the art and the artists, but needs to work on developing audiences.”
The first residency will be a photography exhibition by University of Texas at Austin graduate art student Jennifer Small at the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera. The exhibit of photographs of area youth, who range in age from 13 to 25 years, is titled “At Night/In Town.” It will be on display through the end of November. Several of Small’s photos have been published in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, including one from the exhibit.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Co-op is hosting a reception Nov. 16 for area elected state and local officials, representatives from the State Board of Education and others.
Small actually grew up in Houston but spent considerable time as a child in Bandera, where her grandparents operated the Trading Post dry goods store for nearly 60 years.
“My memories of the store are almost fairy-tale like local people stopping in and hanging out all day,” Small said. “Bandera didn’t seem like such a small place because of the prominence of the store in the landscape of the town’s social scene. I was lucky to have grown up in this atmosphere and townspeople still remember me and my father when I go back to town to take photographs.”
Small said the opportunity to exhibit work, perform or engage the communities in small towns benefits both the artist and the community in helping to promote the understanding and appreciation of fine arts. “It is an enormous honor to have been the first person chosen for this program. I applaud the intention of Dean Freeman to promote the talent that the university has within the College of Fine Arts and agree that this will most certainly increase the audience for programs such as this.”
Small hopes to lecture and run a workshop about potential careers in photography and photojournalism with the students at Bandera High School.
“Now that the photographs have been published nationally and will be hanging in a gallery, there might be a sense that what once seemed banal is actually fascinating,” Small said. “I would like to see the people in Bandera bring more shows like this to town. I hope that my exhibition provides a platform for this discussion to occur.”
Later this fall, music student Cory Reeves will conduct the Corpus Christi Symphony in his hometown of Rockport. Freeman hopes to have at least three students a year participate in the residency program.
“We are trying to teach the students at the university not only how to play the flute more artistically or how to paint more beautifully, but how to develop constituencies for their own work,” said Freeman. “This project will be good for the university and good for Texas.”