The resignation of the UT School of Architecture's dean over the Blanton Museum of Art furor.
More Blood Over Blanton
The tortured saga of the Blanton Museum of Art has a new and painful chapter. The latest involves Lawrence Speck, dean of the UT School of Architecture for the past six years, who resigned that position on Monday, November 22, in protest of the departure of prestigious Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron Arkitekten from the Blanton project. Speck, who had served on the committee to select the architect for the Blanton commission, felt that Herzog & de Meuron had been treated poorly by the facilities planning and construction committee of the UT Board of Regents. That body had forced the architects into "positions that compromised their professional integrity in a manner that no top flight architects should tolerate," as he stated it in his letter of resignation to UT Austin President Larry Faulkner. Herzog & de Meuron were unwilling to sacrifice their principles for the sake of the job and so chose to resign. Given the circumstances, Speck felt compelled to express his dismay in a way that would register with exceptional force; and so he submitted a resignation of his own. The action was an extremely difficult one for him to make -- the UT School of Architecture is currently ranked among the top schools in the country -- but he stands by it as a matter of principle. Speck has agreed to remain in the post while the university searches for a replacement, even if that process should take as long as 21 months. Speck also plans to continue teaching in the School of Architecture.
News of Speck's action jolted the campus. Students and faculty members across the 40 Acres expressed shock. Some then went on to dismiss the move as a noble but ultimately meaningless gesture, since it was unlikely to change the regents' positions or anything else about the Blanton project. But others were stirred by the power of Speck's action and began looking for ways to make statements of their own about the museum issue.
In the Department of Art & Art History, faculty members and students were inspired to create a way in which they too could publicly register their concerns about the Blanton situation. Michael Mogavero, Associate Professor of Painting, is one of several people helping to put together a protest rally. He says that it was especially important for faculty members to go on record about this issue, to send a message not only to the university but to the students, who will take their teachers' actions as examples. "We're the caretakers of the next generation of arts professionals," Mogavero says. "We're the trustees of their education. If we did not go on record, we could not live with ourselves."
The rally is set for Wednesday, December 1, 12:30pm, in front of the Blanton Museum in the Art Building, 23rd & San Jacinto. Mogavero is quick to note that the event is open to everyone who is concerned about the future of the Blanton Museum -- and everyone should be concerned about the future of the Blanton. This is a building which will house important collections -- the Latin American collection, the Michener collection, the Suida-Manning collection -- that will turn the eyes on the world on this city. "The building that will house these collections," he says "is almost as paramount as the collections themselves."
Clearly, the bloody Blanton saga is not over.
Correction: In last week's column, I inexplicably referred to UT Regent Tony Sanchez as Eddie Sanchez. I regret the error and apologize.