A sound art garden is to open thanks to a $5million donation from Ernest and Sarah Butler
“We are proud to underwrite this innovative outdoor sound gallery at the museum and have it named in our honor. It is exciting to imagine the beautiful, unexpected, and powerful experiences that students and visitors will have with sound art as they explore the museum’s new grounds.”
A sound art garden is opening as part of Blanton Museum of Art in Texas, thanks to a $5million donation from art and science philanthropists Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler. The museum exhibition space will be named Butler Sound Gallery after the generous philanthropist couple and is expected to open in 2022.
Bill Fontana, an ex-composer sound artist from the Bay Area, will create the first commission of the site. He will make the echolocation of bats perceptible to human ears. He will investigate several “interesting and significant ecological and environmental situations in that region of Texas.” Fontana will travel to different locations in the area to get recordings of the voices of bats, including ultrasonic frequencies. He needs a lot of field recordings to build a language. He explained: “Once all of those recordings are edited, they'll become like a musical vocabulary for the piece that will be living in that sound garden.” He will be manipulating the noises so human ears can hear them. “The work will have many different colors and vocabularies of sound. I'd like visitors there to feel like there's always something new to hear, but all of the sounds are related to each other and are part of this big tapestry.” – he said.
The Butler Sound Gallery is something that was never done before, as it will be the first-ever exhibition space in a museum entirely dedicated to sound art. The gallery will be a park-like outdoor space, located on the Blanton’s campus (approximately 200.000sq.), next to the famous Austin Chapel. The sound garden is part of a bigger revitalization project led by a Norwegian architecture firm, Snøhetta.
The Blanton Museum of Art (source: architecturemagazine.com)
Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler have dedicated themselves to art philanthropy for a long time now. Sarah is a retired educator, and Ernest is a retired otolaryngologist and founder of the Austin Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic. Throughout many years, they have been generous donors and board or committee members of different arts organizations.
“Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler’s contributions to arts organizations have not only allowed Austin to have some incredible spaces for art to be performed, rehearsed, or exhibited, but also for Austinites to continue to enjoy art and culture through their consistent and unfailing support. Undoubtedly, their passion and philanthropy helped to shape and sustain the arts in Austin.” – writes Ballet Austin Foundation, where Sarah is the chair of the Board of Trustees.
Since 1997, they have supported many of Austin’s most important arts venues and programs through the Butler Family Fund. The list – among others – includes Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center and the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness, the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, the Long Center for the Performing Arts; and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Thanking their committed and extensive support for the arts – and especially the Ballet Austin II program and the Butler Fellowship Program – the Butlers also recieved the prestigious national Champion Award by Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance in America.
Sarah and Ernest Butler (source: danceusa.org)
The Butlers have supported ballet Austin for decades; their total investment in the nonprofit organization is more than $9.5 million to date. About this long-term collaboration, Sara Butler explained: “Providing a solid foundation upon which art and artists can thrive has been a long-time passion for our family. We’ve taken special pride in watching the growth and development of Ballet Austin over the last 60 years, from a small Central Texas dance academy into a professional ballet company that is among the largest in the country. In addition to its well-established Academy, Ballet Austin also operates the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness, a community-gathering place where individuals of all ages and backgrounds come to dance, exercise, and celebrate life-long health and wellbeing. To see this organization flourish under the current leadership proves that the investment of our time and financial resources through the Butler Family Fund is paying dividends for the entire community. Ernest and I are thrilled to ensure that Ballet Austin continues to serve as an artistic leader at home and abroad by investing in the great performing art we know Stephen Mills and his successors will create.”
Now, with funding the Butler Sound Gallery, the world’s first major museum exclusively concentration on sound art, they are part of something meaningful again, as this is a “historical turning point,” as Fontana said. He added – “sound art has been really on the periphery of acceptance in the art world. I hope this is the beginning of something that will influence other museums.”
The Butler’s will also support the space’s sound-specific projects in the future after Fontana’s work leaves two years after the opening.
“We are proud to underwrite this innovative outdoor sound gallery at the museum and have it named in our honor. It is exciting to imagine the beautiful, unexpected, and powerful experiences that students and visitors will have with sound art as they explore the museum’s new grounds.” – the Butlers said.
Cover Photo: Bill Fontana, Shadow Soundings, 2017 (source: sleek-mag.com)