Need to knows:
Stroller or sling? Recommended stroller
Baby friendly restrooms? Yes – changing table in the ladies
Parking validation? Ish – they have a capped rate of $4 for the Brazos Street Garage
Is anyone else anxious about going to a museum on the UT campus? I’ve been going out of my way to avoid the Blanton, because I was prejudiced against its location. I was a museum bigot, if that’s even a thing. I’m not too proud to admit it.
I imagined it would be crowded (ie not COVID times friendly), tough to find a parking spot, and just an all around stressful experience.
Not so! The Blanton is a treat, and if you’re also a bougie art buff (well hello there, kindred spirit!) then you’ll appreciate the most diverse collection of classic, European, Latin American, and contemporary art in Austin and probably Texas.
Apparently they have 19,000 pieces in their permanent collection, and there’s rotating exhibits too. Currently there’s a lot of BIPOC artists featured — I particularly enjoyed the “Black Is Beautiful” photography exhibit by Kwame Brathwaite.
There’s also a permanent piece by Mequitta Ahuja called “Parade” which is largely about her hair, which I found fascinating. It’s apparently meant to make a statement on how much hair dominates the lives of black people — according to the plaque.
The entire museum is just two floors, but they’re dense with art that spans centuries. It reminds me a bit of a mini version of The Met in New York. There’s also a small piece next door — the Kelly Building — which feels like a church and while a beautiful piece of modern art it’s not exactly where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. The art IS the building and there isn’t much inside. I also found this to be the least baby friendly, because if yours cries the sound reverberates as if you’re in a church and you can’t exactly walk far to calm the baby. It’s a small space.
Anyways, if you need to feed the baby you can only do it in the atrium of the main building which is just past the ticket windows. They also have a space to check backpacks — although they didn’t make me check mine — and no food or drink is allowed anywhere but the atrium so plan accordingly.
I found the whole experience to be very baby friendly, even though I went on the free day, Thursday, and there was a school group I had to make sure and stay away from (COVID safety, y’all). Masks are strongly encouraged but not required — I wore mine — but even if you don’t wear one it’s a vast space and easy to social distance (assuming it’s not rammed — I’d estimate there were less than 50 people there when I went at about 1 pm on a Thursday).
If your kids are no longer babies (older than toddlers), then I think a lot of the permanent collection would actually hold their attention. This portrait of David (of David and Goliath fame) by French artist Claude Vignon was particularly interesting to me, since it was painted in the 17th century yet shows an androgynous David. This was an ideal of beauty for men back then (think Louis XIV with his heels and curly Jonathan Van Ness-length hair). Anyways I think there’s some current cultural relevance with the conversation around gender identity which may actually make kids care about history. It’s worth a shot.
The Blanton is a great place to spend a couple of hours with your baby/babies/maybe even kids, and you’ll get your bougie art fix in a beautiful space with plenty to hold your attention. It’s a winner.