In a trip designed to strengthen existing ties and build new relationships, College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster and UT Provost and Executive Vice President Maurie McInnis traveled to Mexico City in late August.
The dean and provost attended a news conference at the historic Palacio de Belles Artes celebrating the announcement of a new Spanish-language opera about iconic artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The Last Dream of Frida & Diego has been co-commissioned by UT’s College of Fine Arts, the Fort Worth Opera, the San Diego Opera and DePauw University.
The bilingual news conference featured a reading of the new libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, and Cruz and composer Gabriela Lena Frank took questions from reporters about the opera. The opera will premiere at the Fort Worth Opera in spring 2020, at the San Diego Opera in 2021 and at the Butler Opera Center in UT’s College of Fine Arts in February 2021.
The Mexico City chapter of Texas Exes then hosted a luncheon for the UT delegation, which featured a panel of faculty from the College of Fine Arts discussing their scholarly work related to Mexico and Latin America. Professor Robert Desimone, head of the Butler Opera Center, talked about The Last Dream of Frida & Diego and outreach efforts to find partners to bring the work to Mexico. Professor George Flaherty, director of the Center for Latin American Visual Studies, discussed his scholarly work around Latin American and U.S. Latino visual arts, including his recent book Hotel Mexico (UC Press, 2016). Professor David Stuart, director of UT’s Mesoamerica Center, discussed his research in Mayan archeology and epigraphy, as well as some new research related to Aztec culture.
While in Mexico City, Dempster also visited the studio of prominent Mexico City-based artist Thomas Glassford (B.F.A., Studio Art, 1988). A Laredo, Texas native, Glassford moved to Mexico City in 1990 and joined a young avant-garde group of Mexican, European and American artists living in the city. Since the early 1990s, Glassford has used everyday materials—ranging from gourds to broomsticks, anodized aluminum to melamine plates—to create architectural or installation-scale works. His work has been celebrated and shown all over the world, including the widely covered piece Xipe Totec, an LED light installation enveloping a former Foreign Ministry building in Mexico City fraught with a painful political history. A more recent work, Siphonophora, was hung in the atrium of the Blanton Museum as part of their permanent collection re-installation last year.
The College of Fine Arts is exploring a study abroad program in Mexico City, and Leslie Moody Castro (M.A., Art Education, 2010) put together a pilot program in the city this past spring where a group of faculty and students in the Department of Art and Art History spent a week in the city. The college hopes to expand this pilot into a semester-long study abroad program in the next year.
These collaborations align closely with UT President Greg Fenves’ vision of strengthening ties between Mexico and the University. In 2015, Fenves led a delegation of 44 academic and administrative leaders from the university to Mexico City for five days of meetings with Mexican scholars, administrators and government officials.
“UT Austin has educated thousands of students from Mexico, many of whom have become leaders in their communities and professions,” wrote Fenves in an op-ed about the trip. “And numerous UT Austin students have deepened their educations by studying in Mexico. These ties are vital to our ambitions as a leading research university, and we are looking at ways to expand them.”
Associate Professor George Flaherty, center, gives a tour to Dean Dempster and Provost McInnis of the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico City.
Provost Maurie McInnis sings The Eyes of Texas at the Texas Exes Mexico City chapter's luncheon.
Dean Dempster visits the studio of Thomas Glassford (BFA, Studio Art, 1988) in Mexico City.