By: Louis Grachos, Executive Director, The Contemporary Austin
About The Contemporary Austin: The Contemporary Austin’s mission is to reflect the spectrum of contemporary art through exhibitions, commissions, education and the collection. We aspire to be the contemporary art museum for Austin and an essential part of city life. Through its unique combination of urban and outdoor sites, The Contemporary embodies an eclectic and collaborative spirit. The Jones Center, the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria and our Museum Without Walls program allow us to showcase contemporary art accompanied by dynamic programming throughout the city.
Tell us about your most memorable day (so far) in your work at The Contemporary Austin.
Two memorable days come to mind – one being the day we received notification from the Moody Foundation it was providing the lead gift for Phase I of the Laguna Gloria Master Plan. The plan took a great deal of intense planning, and it was extremely gratifying to see the Foundation recognize the importance of what we hoped to accomplish. The second was a day in 2014 when we found out the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation had awarded us a very significant grant to launch the first art commissions at Laguna Gloria. Both of these moments helped realize the mission of the museum. For that, I am deeply thankful.
How has the community or your peers benefitted from work funded by the Moody Foundation?
The Moody Foundation has been so supportive of Austin from recent gifts to Pease Park and the amphitheater at Waller Creek’s Waterloo Park. The Moody Foundation clearly understands the need for public spaces and outdoor experiences. Fundraising can be challenging for arts and cultural organizations, so I am impressed by the Moody Foundation’s commitment to support art organizations across the state. With all the various areas they support – art, education and health — it seems to me the Foundation takes a holistic approach to the needs of citizens.
What is the timeline of the Laguna Gloria updates?
The work has already begun with the removal of invasive species on the lower grounds. This has dramatically opened up views of Lake Austin. We also have a meadow full of wildflowers. The sidewalk along 35th Street is complete, providing greater safety for our visitors. In mid-June, the construction of the Moody Pavilions will begin. If all the work keeps on schedule, we should be able to complete the project by December.
Why did you decide to update Laguna Gloria?
We have a strong desire to make this historic property a rich resource for future generations of Austinites and tourists. Laguna Gloria is a beloved Texas property and our aim is to honor the legacy of Clara Driscoll by making the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park an unparalleled contemporary arts destination that is unmistakably Austin. We worked with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and other consultants to prepare a master plan that would be framed by such a distinctive cultural heritage. Our trustees and staff traveled to other sculpture parks around the world to observe what the key components were to having a park that invited visitors to explore and enjoy the grounds. As a result, we learned we needed to provide more amenities such as a café, retail, gathering spaces, shade, better restroom facilities and a proper space to greet visitors and orient them to the park.
What impact do you hope to have with the updates?
We hope to encourage more people to come to Laguna Gloria to experience its unique cultural and ecological stories as a wonderful venue for making and experiencing art. Not only do we hope to welcome new visitors, but also with all the new amenities, we wish they will stay for longer periods of time, visit more frequently and bring their families and friends along with them. The staff will be better able to greet them upon their arrival and orient them to the grounds. With the new sidewalk already complete, we know we can offer visitors improved safety as they arrive at Laguna Gloria. We are also excited that children visiting on school tours will benefit from the shaded gathering spaces. Ultimately, we hope to make an indelible impression on each and every visitor who comes to Laguna Gloria.