The University of Texas at Austin announces the dedication of Walter Cronkite Plaza on April 19, 2012, in front of the Jesse H. Jones Communication complex, featuring the premiere of a public art installation by new media artist Ben Rubin.
The art installation, titled “And That’s the Way It Is,” honors the legacy of Walter Cronkite, an alumnus of the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin. It was commissioned for the College of Communication by Landmarks, the university’s public art program. The installation is the first of three to be unveiled by Landmarks this year and the first digital art installation to be added to the university’s growing public art collection.
“And That’s the Way It Is” will illuminate the face of the Communication A (CMA) Building with projections of choreographed text drawn both from archival transcripts of Cronkite’s broadcasts and recently published news. As daily news is generated, the text adapts to reflect current events connecting the past and present. The installation will be visible every evening from dusk until midnight from the Walter Cronkite Plaza.
“I’m looking for ways that the Cronkite perspective his reporting, language, the subjects he covered and the news of his era might illuminate our contemporary news,” Rubin said. “Part of what I’m looking for are rhythms figures of speech or grammatical constructions that when placed one after the other form a litany that will occasionally seem poetic.”
Several university units collaborated to realize this commission. The College of Communication provided funding as part of its capital improvement project, the Briscoe Center for American History contributed transcripts from its archive of Walter Cronkite papers, and the School of Information offered technical expertise to the artist.
“As one of the college’s most accomplished sons, Walter Cronkite epitomized the traditional values of journalism accuracy, courage, independence and integrity that we seek to imbue in our students,” said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication. “By honoring the Cronkite legacy we hope to instill in our students the moral and ethical framework they will need in a new digital era.”
The dedication ceremony and unveiling of “And That’s The Way It Is” will feature a range of activities that are free and open to the public:
- 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Rubin will hold a QandA session at the Texas Advanced Computing Center’s Visualization Lab, located at the Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences (ACES) Building, 201 E. 24th St. The QandA will be moderated by Kathleen Forde, artistic director of the Borusan Contemporary Museum in Istanbul.
- 6 p.m. The dedication ceremony will take place at the CMA Building, 2504 Whitis Ave. Various speakers will honor the Cronkite legacy, including: Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication; Steven Leslie, provost of The University of Texas at Austin; David Rhodes, president of CBS News; Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center for American History; and College of Communication students.
- 8:30 p.m. “And That’s the Way It Is” will be unveiled at the CMA Building, 2504 Whitis Ave.
Cronkite attended The University of Texas at Austin in the 1930s and studied political science, economics and journalism and worked for the school newspaper, The Daily Texan. From 1962 to 1981 he was the anchorman and managing editor for the CBS Evening News, where he covered events including the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the first moon landing and Watergate. Cronkite established the News Media History Archive at the Briscoe Center with the donation of his personal and professional papers.
He was well known for his CBS Evening News signoff, “And that’s the way it is.”
New York-based Rubin creates art that incorporates audio, visual and digital electronics. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, among others. He has realized large-scale public works for The New York Times, the city of San José and the Minneapolis Public Library, and his work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Science Museum, London.
“Ben is highly regarded in the art historical community for his pioneering experiments in new media technologies,” said Andrée Bober, Landmarks director. “This piece, projected on an architectural scale, will combine digital text from live mass media journalism and Cronkite’s archival broadcasts. The resulting nonlinear narratives will intrigue and inspire the public for years to come.”
About Landmarks, the Public Art Program of The University of Texas at Austin
Landmarks is the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, bringing the finest works of public art to the main campus in order to support the university as a leading research institution, to enhance its aesthetic character, and to provide a source of civic pride and welfare.
About The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication
One of the nation’s foremost institutions for the study of advertising and public relations, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, journalism, and radio-TV-film, The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication serves more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students.