Engaging the Senses


April 19, 2022

Karl and Nelda Buckman’s $2 million gift supports new collaboration space for immersive art at UT Austin’s College of Fine Arts

By Sharon Reynolds

Karl and Nelda Buckman are igniting creativity through immersive, experiential art at The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Fine Arts. Their generous $2 million gift will establish the Buckman Center, an immersive technologies studio and lab dedicated to the collaboration between design and emerging technologies in areas including immersive performance, sound design and recording, and innovation in interdisciplinary arts and entertainment fields.

The Buckmans’ donation is the largest gift to the School of Design and Creative Technologies to date and will be used to renovate existing space in the Doty Fine Arts Building to support the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies. The Center will be a flexible lab/performance facility for artists, musicians and designers working at the intersection of immersive media and creative technologies.

“The UT College of Fine Arts is truly on the precipice of steering the future of creative technology and the arts,” said Nelda Buckman. “The passion of the faculty, staff and students is impressive and infectious. At the Buckman Center, students will have the ability to collaborate, creating innovative art experiences using technology, light, sound and physical materials. This takes engagement with art from observation to immersion. The Center will create a way for art to be felt and experienced instead of just viewed. Karl and I look forward to seeing what emerges.”  

“One of the most exciting things about having a training center in these technologies in a city like Austin where the creative industries are booming is that students will develop skills that serve and attach to industry developments beyond the campus,” said Ramón H. Rivera-Servera, dean of the College of Fine Arts.

“The College of Fine Arts is committed to advancing both great artistry and translatability of skills toward future employment and career trajectories, and the Buckman Center will be a laboratory that not only ignites the creativity of the students who come through it, but also trains them and leads them to securing industry jobs in our immediate backyard. It’s an exciting intersection of creativity and future life pursuits of our community,” added Rivera-Servera.

Planting deep roots in Austin

Nelda Buckman is a Texas-based producer, artist and investor who leads her Austin-based media and philanthropic organization Nelda Studios to lift, nurture and expand opportunities for creativity and the arts. Through the Studio’s multiplatform media productions, philanthropy and community outreach initiatives, she strives to spark people’s creativity and help them become the best versions of themselves. Karl Buckman is a Tennessee businessman and philanthropist who came to Austin to be with Nelda, his wife of seven years. They share a true love for Texas and its people and are passionate about enhancing creative arts for all to enjoy through media, philanthropy and outreach.

“What I love about Texans are their sincere friendliness and openness. Genuine leaders tend to grow here,” Nelda said. “There’s something about the wide-open spaces that creates a certain type of person. I grew up around nature, and nature is my biggest inspiration. I have a love for the creative world, anything from insects to plants. Austin is the place to be for the arts, and it’s exciting to see how everything happening here influences the rest of the world.”

Working eight years as an elementary school art teacher was the catalyst that sparked her love of art. “It was just beautiful watching children's eyes open to the creativity within themselves and foster a love for creative expression,” she said.

Karl’s passion for music and sound spans from equipment to the techniques involved in producing music to the music itself. “To me, music is an expression of emotion. Nelda has shared her interests with me, broadened my exposure to the arts and introduced the beauty of all the arts to me,” he said.

“Giving is my love language”

Nelda’s connection with UT began while her daughter was a UT student. She became friends with faculty and students alike and was inspired by UT’s solid tradition of being in the forefront of education.

“I got to know different areas of the university and really connected with the energy of the students, the staff and the way Austin revolves around the university. So much that has happened in Austin’s culture and in the arts has been influenced by The University of Texas.”

Through the Studio’s philanthropic arm, The Buckman Fund, they are helping the next generation of creatives develop innovative technology or design solutions to reach new heights. “Giving is my love language. The little bit that I can give might transform something, not just for one generation but for many generations to come,” said Nelda.

Karl was inspired by his family’s tradition of giving. He watched his grandmother and his father give to others, always from the heart. “With Nelda, philanthropy has taken on a whole new chapter. I love seeing her light up and being able to give. It’s healing to help others,” he said.

“Giving back is important to Karl and me,” said Nelda. “We give for the next generation and for the generation following them. It's a continuous cycle. People can help make other people successful, and creativity is a part of that. Our changing world is evolving at such speed that the only way to continue to stay on top of that is through funding and gifting. It is truly like touching the future.”

Creativity, the job of the future

Immersive art experiences are captivating the senses of people around the world, and once the Buckman Center is completed, students will have a new laboratory space to collaborate, design, build and test immersive experiences.

“The Buckman Center offers an opportunity for us to establish onsite capabilities to work with immersive media technologies, enhance our curriculum and ultimately catapult our students into the future,” said Michael Baker, chair of the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies. “The center has great potential impact. There is so much happening in the immersive media space industry, and there are many questions. The center will give us the ability to work with partners and begin answering some of those questions.”

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