The Visual Arts Center (VAC) is a 13,000 square-foot gallery situated in the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. Our mission is to provide a platform for artists, curators, and educators to experiment, test ideas, and take risks. Through our exhibitions and public programs, we aim to spark generative conversations about art and contemporary society. We believe art has the potential to unite, inform, and inspire us to take action toward creating a more just world. The VAC is always free and open to the public.
We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, and Tigua Pueblo, on whose ancestral lands these galleries are located. We also acknowledge and welcome all American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who are from or have become a part of these lands in Central Texas. We are committed to remembering how we are connected through the land on which our space now stands, and to amplifying the voices and work of artists who remind us of these connections. We resolve to maintain open dialogue with, and mutual respect toward, all American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities now and into the future.
Who We Are
Director of Communications
Department of Art and Art History
Department of Art and Art History
Graduate Fellows & Interns
Angela Mikaela Mendiola
Founded in 2010, the Visual Arts Center (VAC) is an exhibition space located in the Art Building at The University of Texas at Austin. The VAC organizes exhibitions and public programs throughout the academic year, and is the site for graduating student exhibitions each spring. Within its five distinct gallery spaces, the VAC hosts artists-in-residence as well as other solo and group exhibitions.
Before becoming the Visual Arts Center in 2010, the VAC was the site of the University Art Museum. Designed by the architecture firm Page, Southerland, Page, the museum was dedicated in 1963 to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the College of Fine Arts. The museum galleries in the southeast corner of the Art Building displayed a distinctive roofline of barrel vaults, which remain a distinctive feature of the building's architecture today.
A series of improvements to the Art Building took place between 1965 and 1980, and during this period the University Art Museum’s collections substantially grew. Eventually, the museum’s permanent art collection was relocated to the Humanities Research Center and the museum was repurposed for temporary exhibitions. In 1980, the museum was renamed the Archer M. Huntington Gallery in recognition of the initial gift that established the museum.
In 1998, the museum’s name was changed once again to the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. The Blanton organized exhibitions and programs in this space until their new building was constructed on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in 2006. The Creative Research Laboratory, founded by the Department of Art and Art History in 2001 as a site for exhibitions and programming organized by students and faculty in the department, closed its location in east Austin, relocated to the Art Building, and reopened as the Visual Arts Center in 2010. The Visual Arts Center upheld the Creative Research Laboratory’s mission of showcasing the work of emerging artists and UT undergraduate and graduate students.
The renowned San Antonio-based architecture firm Lake|Flato designed the VAC’s galleries, opening up the enclosed spaces throughout the building. During the renovation, the architects discovered the previously covered vaulted ceiling in the galleries and restored it to its former glory. The concrete barrel vaults became, and remain, a visual signature for the VAC.
The VAC hosts two artists-in-residence each academic year, and each residency culminates in an exhibition in the VAC’s main gallery space. The artist-in-residence program offers emerging artists an opportunity to engage with students and faculty at UT, to utilize the myriad resources on campus—from special collections to libraries and archives—and to realize an exhibition of their work. For many past recipients of the VAC residency, this exhibition has been the first solo presentation of their work in Texas.