The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum represents so much that is quintessentially Austin: superb art casually set in a shady garden of native Texas plants, a natural oasis near Barton Springs and only blocks from the heart of an urban capitol city.
Originally containing small ponds used by soldiers to practice fly casting during the late 1930s and 1940s, these four acres were then forgotten for the next four decades, lost under dewberry vines and illicit dumping.
In 1991, the property was transformed into a sculpture garden for the dozens of bronze and stone pieces given to the city of Austin by noted 20th century American sculptor Charles Umlauf. There art and nature meet in serene harmony. The xeriscape garden, with its waterfall and streams muffling the sounds of traffic, gives visitors a peaceful place in which to contemplate the sculptures or their own thoughts. As the seasons change, so do the natural environment and light around each sculpture. The garden is welcoming and accessible in many different ways: visitors in wheelchairs and parents with strollers use the gravel path laid out as a giant peace symbol; children explore the grounds with Sculpture Safaris in hand, lightly touching the gleaming bronzes waxed for the visually impaired; friends talk on the secluded benches; the occasional dance or music performance is even more magical among the trees.
Eventually, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum will also include the sculptor’s personal sculpture garden located on two adjoining acres up the hill, overlooking the Museum grounds. Angeline Umlauf began creating this unique space in the early 1950s, planting native flowering shrubs around the sculptures that Umlauf moved out of his studio as he finished them. Their six children dug paths and edged them with stones they took out of the flower beds. It was the pleasure that their many guests experienced in their private garden that inspired Charles and Angeline Umlauf to give it, along with their home, his studio and 168 pieces of sculpture to the City they loved.
Note: The bronze sculptures in the garden have been waxed so visitors who are blind or visually impaired and others can touch the sculptures. The wax protects the bronze from being damaged by the salts and oils in exploring fingers.
In 2014 the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum was chosen as one of the ten benefitting organizations in the Reel Change Film Frenzy, a film contest sponsored by Lights. Camera. Help. that features local nonprofits.