We work to inspire Austin to learn, play, protect and connect by creating diverse programs and experiences in sustainable natural spaces and public places.
In 1985, a local professor and renowned sculptor, Charles Umlauf, gave his home, property, and a vast range of his original sculptures to the city of Austin. However, it took six years and some serious fundraising efforts before the Umlauf Gardens and Museum were ready to open to the public. Even at 80 years old, Charles stayed involved with the project and helped place all of the sculptures.
Charles Umlauf's artistic talent was apparent even at the young age of eight. It was then that he began earning summer scholarships at the Chicago Art Institute. There he learned from prominent sculptors such as Lorado Taft and Albin Polasek and met his wife, Angeline Allen. They moved to Austin where Charles taught at the University of Texas for 40 years. Over his career, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Ford Foundation grant, and his work is featured in the Smithsonian and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and, of course, right here in Austin.
Umlauf's style is characteristically diverse, covering a wide breadth of subjects in a variety of mediums including cast iron, marble, and aluminum. Most of his pieces are figurative, though he did create some more abstract interpretations.
In the middle of the sculpture garden is the animal triangle, where many of Umlauf's creatures are contained. A crowd favorite, especially among children, is Lotus, a small bronze hippo. She was modeled after a real hippo at the San Antonio Zoo. Another favorite is a statue of Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum is a beautiful way to enjoy a non-traditional museum experience while viewing the largest “touchable” sculpture collection in Texas. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the pieces, and volunteers hold occasional "waxing parties" to make sure coloring stays intact through it all. More than 200 of Charles Umlauf’s sculptures and artworks are strategically placed throughout the garden and museum. Each season the pieces are moved around, challenging the viewer to experience each piece in a new way.
Cover photo credit: EgOiStE via Flickr.