UT Dallas, DMA Announce Partnership Celebrating Opening of New Athenaeum in Fall 2024

The unveiling of Phase I of the O'Donnell Athenaeum, designed by Morphosis Architects, will debut the first of three buildings in the new 12-acre cultural complex at UT Dallas.

Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum at the University of Texas at Dallas, Phase I [Rendering courtesy Morphosis]

The University of Texas at Dallas and the Dallas Museum of Art have announced a landmark partnership to celebrate the opening of the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum in the fall of 2024.

The unveiling of Phase I of the O’Donnell Athenaeum, designed by Morphosis Architects, will debut the first of three buildings in the new 12-acre cultural complex at UT Dallas.

The university broke ground last spring on the $158 million cultural district on the southeastern edge of the UTD campus.

“I’m thrilled to welcome some of the finest works of art in our city to the new campus museum,” UTD President Richard C. Benson, the Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership, said in a statement. “This initiative supports our goal to improve student access to the visual arts, and I cannot think of a better opportunity for students—not only those studying the fine arts at UT Dallas but all students from every discipline.”

“Not only will this partnership impact the campus community, but it’s a wonderful way for the Dallas Museum of Art to reach communities in the northern Texas region,” Benson added.

With the Crow Museum of Asian Art as the Athenaeum’s resident museum, additional space will be designated for the presentation of significant works on loan from the Dallas Museum of Art in a multiyear partnership.

A rendering of the Crow Museum of Asian Art that will be built as part of the new Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr. Athenaeum at UT Dallas. [Image: UT Dallas]

‘Art is for everyone’

As part of its own strategic plan led by Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, the DMA has been working to explore opportunities to meet the Dallas community and surrounding areas where the museum is offering access to art beyond the Dallas Arts District.

“With art at the center and equity at the core, the DMA believes that art is for everyone. I am honored to bring the next chapter of this legacy partnership to life and look forward to providing better access to the art in our care to our beloved community,” Arteaga said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing this new journey with the DMA collection and are thrilled to do so in collaboration with our valued partners at The University of Texas at Dallas.”

Two galleries will display long-term loans from the DMA with exhibitions curated by UT Dallas faculty members and guest curators.

UT Dallas said it will offer courses and programs in tandem with the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, led by Dr. Michael Thomas, the Richard R. Brettell Distinguished University chair and professor of Arts, Humanities, and Technology.

The partnership represents a longstanding and influential relationship between the university and the Dallas Museum of Art. UT Dallas said the agreement builds upon one of 10 key pillars in the UT Dallas strategic plan – to enhance the arts.

Taking art to the communities

Conceived by Thomas with support from the late Rick Brettell and Arteaga, this collaboration represents the next chapter for the two institutions.

For the past seven years, the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History has operated a satellite location in the Dallas Museum of Art, providing UT Dallas students with access to curatorial projects, research, and programmatic experiences with the large collections and visiting exhibitions.

UT Dallas and the DMA said the new undertaking to extend the physical reach of the museum and the university builds upon the research that access to original works of art increases skills of observation and communication and deepens the role of art in the development of new research and art histories.

“In 2019, when I first approached Rick Brettell with the idea to bring the Dallas Museum of Art to the Athenaeum, we both recognized the profound impact such a partnership would have on art history at UT Dallas,” Thomas said in a statement. “The ability to rotate works of art from the DMA’s extensive encyclopedic collection will engage both students and faculty with unrivaled opportunities for teaching, curation, and research.”

DMA said that a key part to executing its strategic direction is a commitment to forming broad networks and partnerships. As a leader in the arts, the DMA said it is working to build partnerships and strengthen relations with local and statewide institutions, taking art to the communities through short-term and long-term loans from the DMA collection.

“The DMA is proud of our long history of community engagement throughout the region, which has included bringing arts experiences to over 40,000 students and teachers throughout our region in 2022 alone,” Tamara Wootton Forsyth, the Marcus Family deputy director said in a statement. “We look forward to building upon our commitment to the community through this partnership with UT Dallas.”

A rendering of the lobby of the Crow Museum of Asian Art at UT Dallas. [Rendering: UTD]

‘Art as a tool for learning’

UT Dallas, with its growing student population of more than 31,000 students, said it looks forward to the impact of new collections from the Dallas Museum of Art, exhibitions from the Crow Museum of Asian Art, and recent gifts in the areas of the Americas.

According to the university, the Phase I museum will represent a global perspective of art with deep engagement for the students including interactive gallery experiences, a student docent program, and opportunities for new research and technology as part of a “laboratory-like” museum experience.

“This new partnership offers our students unparalleled works of art as a tool for learning about themselves, others, and the world,” Dr. Inga Musselman, provost and VP for academic affairs, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with our museum leadership to develop new ways to explore art as a medium for the teaching and understanding of science, technology, engineering, math, and management.”

UT Dallas offers rigorous academic programs, with curricula serving a variety of undergraduate and graduate student interests. Its eight schools offer more than 145 undergraduate and graduate programs, plus professional certificates and fast-track programs. UT Dallas is recognized as an R1 institution—a Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education denoting the top tier of doctoral institutions with very high research activity.

The Dallas Museum of Art, established in 1903, is among the 10 largest art museums in the country. With a free general admission policy and community outreach efforts, the museum is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation and public engagement.

At the heart is its global collection, which encompasses 26,224 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures.

Art history in the digital age

The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History is a stand-alone institute within The University of Texas at Dallas for innovative research and education in the history of art. UTD said that research and teaching at the O’Donnell Institute embrace a global history of art that ranges across geography, chronology, and medium.

It’s the first art history research institute founded in the digital age, and it explores, in particular, the intersection between the visual arts and the sciences and technology.

Earlier this month, the DMA said its call for submissions in its Reimagining the Dallas Museum of Art International Design Competition resulted in 154 submissions from architect-led teams.

It’s part of the museum’s plan for a major expansion that will add flexible gallery spaces, reorganized entrances and circulation, and a reapportioned interior.

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