College of Fine Arts News

Theatre and Dance Graduate Student Honored with Michael H. Granof Award

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AUSTIN, TexasChristian Rabeling, a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $10,000 Michael H. Granof Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the University Coop/Graduate School Awards for Excellence in Graduate Education

The Excellence in Graduate Education awards recognize and reward outstanding graduate students for distinguished scholarship, research, writing and teaching.

Rabeling’s research focuses on evolutionary biology by using ants and experimental systems. His internationally recognized discovery and collection of the first of its kind species of ant in the Amazon has established his reputation as a worldclass entomologist. In addition to his scientific expertise, he is well known in his department as a gifted teacher of undergraduate students. His recent paper about the new ant species was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and received more than 10,000 hits at Google within 72 hours of publication.

The Outstanding Dissertation Award recognizes exceptional work by doctoral students. Three awards of $5,000 each were presented to: Benjamin Hardekopf, Computer Science; Michael Spinetta, Psychology; and Hulya Yildiz from Comparative Literature. Yildiz was the 2007 recipient of the Mitchell Award for Outstanding Graduate Research.

The Outstanding Thesis/Report Award recognizes exceptional work by master’s degree students. Three awards of $3,000 each were presented to: Suzanne Fanger, Human Development and Family Sciences; Charlotte Griffin, Theatre and Dance; and Timothy Weinzirl, Astronomy.

The George H. Mitchell Award for Excellence in Graduate Research recognizes outstanding research that is substantially in progress. Three awards of $3,000 each were presented to: Naminata Diabate, Comparative Literature; Jeremy Goldbach, Social Work; and Barrett Klein, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

The William S. Livingston Outstanding Graduate Student Academic Employee Award recognizes an outstanding teaching assistant, assistant instructor and graduate research assistant. Three awards of $2,500 each were presented to Catherine Connell, Sociology, for Outstanding Assistant Instructor; Juan Carlos Esparza Ochoa, Sociology, for Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant; and Jaehong Park, Information, Risk, and Operations Management, for Outstanding Teaching Assistant. Graduate students make significant contributions across the university, said Victoria Rodrguez, vice provost and dean of graduate studies. They advance research programs, teach and mentor undergraduates and discover new knowledge. The students being honored with these awards represent the best of graduate education and research at the university.

The Graduate School and the University Coop hosted the awards presentation on May 12 at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Ned Rifkin Appointed Director of The Blanton Museum of Art

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dr. Ned Rifkin, former undersecretary for art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been appointed director of the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin.

Beginning Sept. 1, Rifkin also will hold the position of professor of art and art history in the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Fine Arts. He also will become a special adviser to President William Powers Jr. on the visual arts for the campus and collections at the university.

“Ned Rifkin is a tremendous addition to our university,” said Powers. “His vision, energy and knowledge will be a critical factor in shaping the visual arts at the university into a new and exciting era. I could not be more excited or delighted about what Ned Rifkin will mean for making UT one of the nation’s leading centers for the arts. Under his leadership, the Blanton will become the ‘arts entrance’ to our campus.” The appointment of Rifkin, which follows a nationwide search for a director, was effective May 1, said Dr. Steven Leslie, provost of the university. Rifkin succeeds Jessie Otto Hite, who retired in March 2008 after having been director of the art museum for 15 years. Ann Wilson, associate director of the museum, has been the interim director.

“Ned Rifkin is one of our nation’s most visible and highly regarded art museum directors and we are absolutely delighted to have him as our director of the Blanton Museum,” Leslie said. “His appointment at UT is also a major step forward for the visual arts in Austin.

“Ned’s leadership of the Blanton and his role as special adviser to President Powers sets the stage for what will be a wonderful and leading edge campuswide focus on the visual arts. Ned has an engaging, collaborative leadership style and discussions will begin immediately for the establishment of partnerships with the Department of Art and Art History, Ransom Center, Briscoe Center for American History and the Benson Library for joint exhibits of the outstanding holdings of these nationally prominent centers. The stage is set for exciting times ahead.”

Leslie said the appointment of a new director coincides with an administrative restructuring that moves supervision of The Blanton Museum of Art from the College of Fine Arts to the Office of the Provost.

“Although the Blanton Museum is strongly connected to the academic units of the College of Fine Artsand remains strongly connectedits mission as an art museum differs from those academic units,” said Leslie. “We think this move will enable the museum to strengthen and enhance its relationship with the community.”

“It is indeed a privilege for me to accept the positions that The University of Texas at Austin has offered and I am grateful to all of those involved in making it possible for me to come here,” Rifkin said. “After decades of working as a curator, director and leader in the art museum field, it makes complete sense that I would return to Texas, where my career began over 30 years ago as a young professor of art, to lead the Blanton and to share my experiences in the world of art with students, faculty and lovers of art in this important and growing geographical area.

“I am deeply gratified by these appointments and expect to contribute generously to the cultural community at the university, in Austin and nationally. This university has within it numerous colleagues and potential partners to provide those who visit Austin with immensely rich and diverse cultural experiences.”

Prior to his role as undersecretary for art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Rifkin directed the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Menil Collection and Foundation in Houston and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. He also has extensive curatorial experience gained at the Hirshhorn, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. Before entering the art museum profession, Rifkin was an assistant professor in the Department of Art at The University of Texas at Arlington from 19771980.

Rifkin was appointed director of the Hirshhorn in 2002 before he took a newly created position of undersecretary for art at the Smithsonian in 2004. As undersecretary of art, Rifkin oversaw a $100 million budget, six museums (Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the CooperHewitt National Design Museum, the Hirshhorn and the National Portrait Gallery) as well as the Archives of American Art, the Renwick Gallery and the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.

Rifkin earned his bachelor of arts degree as a fine arts major with a minor in philosophy from Syracuse University. He went on to earn his master’s and doctor of philosophy degrees in the history of art from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He has lectured on various subjects in modern and contemporary art, the history of cinema and photography, and notforprofit leadership practice both nationally and internationally. He has authored numerous articles, books and exhibition catalogues throughout his career and has served on many juries of exhibitions, public sculpture commissions and awards.

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, housed in a recently completed two building complex, is one of the foremost university art museums in the country. The museum’s collection is the largest and most comprehensive in Central Texas and comprises more than 18,000 works. It is recognized for its European paintings, modern and contemporary American and Latin American art and an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings.
Ned Rifkin

Mary Winton Green Receives E. William Doty Award 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

COFA Advisory Council Member Mary Winton Green Awarded College’s Highest Honor

The College of Fine Arts established the Doty Award to honor the most extraordinary achievements and contributions made by alumni, faculty and friends of the College of Fine Arts. The award was named for E. William Doty, the founding dean of the college. Past recipients include: author James A. Michener; Butler School of Music alumnus and Penn State President Emeritus Bryce Jordan; and Austin arts patrons Sarah and Ernest Butler, for whom the Butler School of Music is named.

Born in 1923, Mary Winton Green grew up in Waco, Texas and followed in her mothers footsteps by attending The University of Texas at Austin. In 1944, she graduated from the Department of Music with a BM degree in Music Studies. Mary continued her education at the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago, earning her MA degree is 1949.

In 1951, Mary married David Green, who, a few years after their marriage, founded the Quartet Manufacturing Company, which grew to be a substantial manufacturer of office products. Over the years, Mary volunteered with and supported organizations such as the United Way, the Chicago Symphony and the Art Institute of Chicago. Her social work experience included the American Red Cross, the Illinois Childrens Home and Aid, and a position as assistant professor in the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago.

Marys interest in and commitment to the College of Fine Arts led to the creation of the Mary Winton Green Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Music and the David and Mary Winton Green Chair in String Performance and Pedagogy. Mary has been an active member of the colleges Advisory Council since 2001, and her continued support and friendship are invaluable to the college.

Oscar G. Brockett 2009 USITT Award Recipient

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Professor Emeritus Dr. Oscar G. Brockett has received the USITT Award from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. The USITT Award is the highest honor given by the institute and recognizes a lifetime contribution to the performing arts community. Presented annually since 1967, this year’s award was presented at the USITT annual conference held March 18–21 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dr. Brockett began teaching in university theatre programs in 1949 and is considered by many to be the world’s foremost theatre historian. His book, “History of the Theatre,” is the top–ranked and highest–selling theatre history text of the 20th century. His most recent literary contribution, “A History of Scenic Design and Technology,” has been completed with publication projected for 2010.

Upon arriving at the University of Texas at Austin in 1978, Brockett served as dean of the College of Fine Arts before stepping down in 1980 to head the Ph.D. in Theatre History program in the Department of Theatre and Dance until his retirement in 2006. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and Fulbright Award, Brockett is a Fellow of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center and has been awarded multiple career achievement awards from groups like the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the Texas Educational Theatre Association.

Winners of the Tenth Annual University Coop George H. Mitchell Student Awards for Academic Excellence

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Amanda Cayo Awarded for Academic Excellence

Wednesday, the 29th of April was a day to remember for a select group of UT students, parents and faculty. The winners of the Tenth Annual University Coop George H. Mitchell Awards for Academic Excellence were announced at the Four Seasons Hotel. These awards celebrate and reward undergraduate students who have demonstrated unparalleled dedication and achievement in their fields of study. Chairperson of the University Cooperative Society, Dr. Michael Granof hosted the event. Attendees included UT Systems Regent Janiece Longoria, UT President Bill Powers, Provost Steven Leslie and many Deans and Vice Presidents of the University, as well as past grand prize winners of the award.

“This banquet serves another purpose in addition to honoring the students. It is to remind us all that when we step back from the targets of our day to day issues, the University of Texas is extraordinary. By any reasonable standards it is one of intellectual treasures of our country. And the students that we honor tonight as well as many of their classmates will be the scientific, literary, artistic and political leaders of the future. They give us every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead for Texas, the United States and indeed the world,” said Dr. Michael Granof in his opening speech.

The $20,000 Grand Prize winner of the Undergraduate Student Awards for Academic Excellence was Yuxuan Wang, Biochemistry Senior, who was nominated by Professor Andrew Ellington for her honors thesis “Aptamer Antagonists of Myelin Promote Axon Growth.” Wang’s research has the potential to break new ground in the area of central nervous system repair. During her sophomore year, Yuxuan worked on a project in Ellington’s lab that used aptamers, small pieces of RNA that bind with high specificity, to detect drugresistant forms of HIV. The results were published in an article in the journal Nucleic Acids Research (Yuxuan is second author). During this time, while also taking a neurobiology course, Yuxuan saw promise in a merger between the usefulness of aptamers and the pathways that inhibit regeneration of nerve cells after injury. This project has such potential for impact, that Yuxuan wrote and was awarded a $100,000 research grant from TI3D (Texas Institute for Drug and Diagnostics Development) to pursue it. She has been recognized both locally and nationally, winning the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Award as a sophomore. In the fall, Yuxuan will begin an MD/PhD program, after selecting between full fellowships at Johns Hopkins University and Washington University at St. Louis.

Three other undergraduate students, Matthew Montry, Architecture Senior; Michael Collins, Asian Studies and Plan II Senior; and Robbie Earle, Government and Spanish Senior, won the second prize and received $5,000 each.

The five winners of the $2,000 awards were: Ari Schulman, English and Computer Science Senior; Allison Bullock, Geography Honors and Biology Senior; Charles Beaman, Mechanical Engineering Honors Senior; Jesse Cordes Selbin, Humanities Honors and English Senior; and Amanda Cayo, Theatre and Dance and Plan II Senior.

About University Cooperative Society:
The University Coop is a notforprofit corporation owned by the students, faculty and staff of the University of Texas at Austin. Since the year 2000, the University Coop has given over 25 million dollars to UT in gifts, grants and rebates to students.

Contact: Hulan Swain at 512.322.7071 or Email:

Holly Williams Appointed Interim Chair of Department of Theatre and Dance

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Appointment effective June 1st.

Holly Williams, associate professor and senior associate chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed interim chair of the department, effective June 1.

Williams succeeds Bob Schmidt, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, who is stepping down after serving as both interim and chair of the department since 2006, and senior associate chair from 1996-2006.

“The college is indebted to Bob Schmidt for more than a decade of steadfast administrative leadership to the Department of Theatre and Dance,” said College of Fine Arts Dean Douglas Dempster. “And we’re truly fortunate to have an equally capable and determined interim chair in Professor Holly Williams.”

As a dancer, Williams performed nationally and internationally with the companies of Mark Morris, Laura Dean and Jose Limon. Her choreography has been staged for companies across the United States, and her work for the Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Austin Lyric Opera and Dallas Theatre Center has won national acclaim.

As a writer and critic, she has contributed to The New York Times, Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman among other publications. She is president elect of the American College Dance Festival Association and the Council of Dance Administrators, and has been on dance panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Dance/USA and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.

“The students of the Department of Theatre and Dance are exceptional young artists and the faculty are truly inspirational,” said Williams. “I am honored to serve them all and move forward the goals of our programs.”

Williams earned her bachelor of arts degree from Barnard College at Columbia University, and her master of fine arts degree from Texas Woman’s University, from which she also received the 2001 Distinguished Alumnae Award in dance. In addition to her dance administration duties directing the university’s master of fine arts dance program, Williams continues to choreograph for dance companies throughout the United States and abroad. In 2008 she was named to the Fulbright Senior Specialist roster in dance. She has been on faculty in the Department of Theatre and Dance since 1995.

Shepard Fairey Installation POSTPONED at The University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mural Installation for Landmarks public art program


The Landmarks project to create a mural by street artist Shepard Fairey has been postponed until further notice. The work was intended for the Art Building (ART) at The University of Texas at Austin and would have been created on 19 March 2009.

The artist approached the College of Fine Arts with an idea to create a mural on one of its buildings earlier this month.

“We jumped at the opportunity and set the wheels in motion to take advantage of his offer,” says Landmarks director Andre Bober. “Shepard’s work is important and perfectly suited to our program, but it was ambitious to try to pull it off in just one week. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.”

Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster would like to reschedule the event. “We would still like to see his work here on campus, but the compressed schedule makes it too difficult at this time. As dean of Fine Arts, I felt that we were rushing the process with an important artist and an important installation. I decided that it would be better to slow down and proceed in a more deliberate fashion. I’m sorry that we could not move fast enough for this project to happen.”

Zarathustra James, Fairey’s representative said it was great of Landmarks to welcome Fairey’s work, but that they understood the logistical challenges. “Shepard would definitely be interested in a future project,” said James. “With a little more planning, he’ll even be able to get involved with the faculty and students.”

Distinguished Curators, Scholars and Critics of Contemporary Art Present at Viewpoint 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Distinguished Curators, Scholars and Critics of Contemporary Art Present at Viewpoint 2009

The 18th annual Viewpoint Lecture series will be presented by the Department of Art and Art History this spring. Viewpoint 2009 is a series of concentrated visits by leading curators, critics and scholars who are involved in the diverse and multifaceted contemporary art world. The lectures occur over the course of the entire spring 2009 semester, allowing students to share critical dialogue and network with industry experts. Viewpoint is the only major lecture series of its kind in the United States.

This year’s invitees are internationally-recognized artists Phong Bui and Leah Ollman. Bui is an artist, writer and curatorial adviser at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Museum of Modern Art affiliate. His numerous installations over the last two years have earned the Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Eric Isenbeurger Annual Prize for Installation from the National Academy Museum. He is the editor and publisher of the monthly journal The Brooklyn Rail, a critical perspective on arts, politics and culture in New York City and beyond.

Leah Ollman has been writing criticism and features on the visual arts for the Los Angeles Times for more than 20 years. She is a corresponding editor for Art in America and the author of numerous catalogue essays. Her publications include: Strangely Familiar (2008), The Photography of John Brill (2002) and William Kentridge: Weighingand Wanting (2001). She lives in San Diego and is working on a project exploring the affinities between poetry and photography.

New Performing Arts Director Named

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kathleen Panoff Appointed Director and Associate Dean of Performing Arts Center

After a seven monthlong international search, Kathleen Panoff, currently executive director of the Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, will be the next director and associate dean of The University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center, effective Aug.1.

She emerged from a terrific field of strong candidates, says College of Fine Arts Dean Douglas Dempster. She has a lifelong dedication to arts education and the place of the performing arts in higher education, which has included a faculty appointment and the creation of an Arts Management program at the University of Richmond. Kathy is equally well known by artists and arts managers for her superb judgment in arts presenting as she is respected for her administrative and business acumen. I couldn’t be more pleased with her appointment.

Panoff will be taking over the post once held by former Performing Arts Center Director Pebbles Wadsworth and Interim Director April Holmes.

I am honored to become a member of the University of Texas at Austin community, says Panoff, and look forward to working with our arts faculty and students and the Austin community at large, to write the next best chapter in the Performing Arts Center’s distinguished history.

Panoff has had a distinguished career in the performing arts having served as the Managing Director of the Cincinnati Playhouse before founding and running the Modlin Center for 13 years. She has been a development officer for the Celebrity Series of Boston and WGUCFM, Fine Arts Public Radio in Cincinnati, and owns a private consultancy in fundraising. She is a practicing flutist and singer with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education and conducting from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. She is a native of Virginia, and began her career as a music teacher in schools in Texas, Ohio and Virginia.

Run in the Upcoming Student Elections!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Filing for the SG Elections is now open.

Filing for the Student Government elections is now open and will remain open until 4pm on February 10th. Stop by the Student Government Office (SSB 4.206) between the hours of 9am and 4pm Monday through Friday to file. The election will be held on March 3rd and March 4th. Be a part of the official voice of students! Visit for more information. If you have any questions about running for office, please contact Student Body President Keshav Rajagopalan ( or Communications Director Chelsea Fosse (