Where Nature Frames Art: Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museu

Charles Umlauf, ever the dedicated teacher and sculpture, used to climb into the attic of a World War II barracks with a fire extinguisher to make sure his white hot kiln wouldn’t start a structure fire while his students’ work solidified.

When people met Umlauf, he left an impression with his powerful handshake and wide smile, historians note.

Umlauf, a Michigan native who came to teach at the University of Texas, bought property and built a studio in one of Austin’s prime scenic areas near Barton Springs in Barton Hills in 1944. When he finally decided to leave, he left something for the whole city to enjoy. He donated his property as well as 168 artworks and sculptures to the City of Austin in 1985. A museum was built with private money in 1991.

The blend of Umlauf’s celebrated sculptures and impressively maintained gardens, trees and pathways has since attracted a growing number of visitors and is making a name for itself as a destination for cultural events as well as a must-see Austin art attraction.

The Austin American-Statesman topped their list of 2014’s transformative art installations with the impressive “Reflect” project by Margo Sawyer.

“With deftness and elegance, Sawyer responded to the architecture of the Umlauf gallery pavilion with a cerebral, luminescent floor installation and to the undulating sculpture-filled grounds with contemplative abstract arrangements of re-purposed vintage brick and tile,” the Statesman reported.

Now Showcasing: ‘Sodbuster, San Isidro’

Most recently, the museum is hosting a massive polychrome fiberglass bull with a strong, bearded man guiding a plow behind it. It’s one of the most famous works by one of Charles Umlauf’s students, Luis Jimenez.

Jimenez is famous for the wide, public distribution of many of his intriguing, massive sculptures and how his work helped open doors for other Mexican-American artists.

The “Sodbuster, San Isidro” exhibit is on loan from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas until April 19. It was commissioned by the city of Fargo, North Dakota, in 1979. It is said that Jimenez based it on a local woodchopper who lived near Jimenez in Hondo, New Mexico.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum also frequently host craft classes, art discussions and partner with local breweries and restaurants for events.