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Dr. Richard R. Brettell and Peter Walker, 2017 Richard Brettell Award in the Arts recipient

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) hosted a reception and dinner honoring the first recipient of The Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, landscape architect Peter Walker, on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

Dr. Richard C. Benson, president of UTD, and Dr. Richard R. Brettell, the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair of Arts and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair at UTD, were joined by more than 90 guests for the occasion, held in the Founders Building on the UTD campus.

As guests arrived, they mingled over cocktails and passed canapés while enjoying music from the Radiant Guitar Group.  After cocktails, patrons progressed to the dining room where tables displayed accents of gold and topiary centerpieces of magnolia leaves and white roses.

Dr. Benson welcomed attendees and introduced The Richard Brettell Award in the Arts that recognizes the essential and fundamental role of the arts in the life of the university.  As he shared, the award will honor an artist working in or between any of the broad spectrum of artistic endeavors, including the visual arts, music, literature, performance, and architecture/design.  Given every other year, the award consists of a prize of $150,000 and a week's residence on the UT Dallas campus and in Dallas, during which the awardee will present a major public lecture and interact in a variety of venues with the students, staff and faculty of UT Dallas and with the larger arts community of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

The concept of the Brettell Award is inspired by the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, created by the McDermott Family at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974. The MIT McDermott Award is also made every other year, and it is planned to schedule the two events in alternating years.

Dr. Benson also extended his gratitude to Mrs. Margaret McDermott seated nearby, who provided the gift for the annual award.  He then took a few moments to recognize just a few of the many accomplishments of Dr. Brettell, to whom the award is named in honor of.

Dr. Brettell, who has three degrees from Yale University, came to UTD 15 years ago. His resume includes having served as curator of European paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago and director of the DMA, a position he held from 1988 to 1992. Brettell occupies the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Arts and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O'Donnell Distinguished University Chair at UTD.

As dessert was served, Dr. Benson returned to introduce the first recipient of The Brettell Award, landscape architect Peter Walker.  Before formally presenting the award, Benson welcomed artist Linda Ridgway to the podium whose bronze and 24k gold sculpture, Nature’s first green is gold, 2016, served as this year’s award.  As Linda shared, the sculpture was inspired by poet Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which she then recited for the audience. 

Dr. Brettell and Walker joined Dr. Benson and Ridgway as they unveiled the sculpture.

Walker, a renowned landscape architect whose work includes the transformation of the UT Dallas campus, the design of the sculpture garden at the Nasher Sculpture Center and the National 9/11 memorial, extended his thanks to Dr. Benson and the University of Texas at Dallas, Dr. Richard Brettell, and Margaret McDermott for the distinct honor.  In his remarks, he humbly accepted the award on “behalf of all landscape architects.”

In closing, Dr. Benson asked all in attendance to raise up their glasses in a toast to Peter Walker, the first recipient of The Richard Brettell Award In the Arts.

For more information about The Richard Brettell Award in the Arts, visit

 About Peter Walker

A renowned landscape architect with over 50 years of experience in practice and teaching, Peter Walker is the mastermind behind the ongoing campus enhancement plan at UT Dallas, which includes the magnolia tree-lined mall, the trellised plaza, and the wooded area surrounding University Parkway. The scope of his concerns is expansive — from the planning of cities to the design of small gardens– with a particular emphasis on civic design, corporate headquarters, plazas, academic campuses, and urban renewal projects. Exploring the relationship of art, culture, and context, he has challenged traditional concepts of landscape design.


After graduating from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Walker banded together with his professor Hideo Sasaki to found Sasaki, Walker and Associates in 1957, which later became The SWA Group. Walker spent seven years building up the company's reputation as an internationally recognized urban design firm before forming Peter Walker and Partners (now PWP Landscape Architecture) in 1983.


Walker also designed the landscape for the Nasher Sculpture Center in downtown Dallas in collaboration with Renzo Piano Workshop. Framed by live oak and cedar-elm allées, rows of holly hedges, and a series of stone plinths, the garden design at the Nasher provides a stunning outdoor gallery for the museum's collection of sculptures.


The firm's architects challenge traditional concepts of design, and they frequently join with renowned architects to create significant projects. Advocating a landscape that responds to — as well as influences its environment — Walker has collaborated with architects of such stature as I. M. Pei, Arata Isozaki, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Yoshio Taniguchi, Ricardo Legorreta, and Helmut Jahn.


Over the years, Walker's firm has received honors and awards and won numerous design competitions, including the National September 11 Memorial in New York, the United States Embassy in Beijing, and the Library Walk at the University of California, San Diego.


About Richard Brettell

Richard Brettell is among the foremost authorities in the world on Impressionism and French Painting of the period 1830-1930. With three degrees from Yale University, he has taught at The University of Texas, Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, Yale University, and Harvard University and is currently the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is also an international museum consultant with projects in Europe, Asia, and the United States. He established the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums at UT Dallas.


In 1980, Dr. Brettell was appointed Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1988, he became the McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Since leaving the DMA, Dr. Brettell has been involved with the purchase of the M.H.W. Ritchie Collection for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, with the building and renovation program of the Portland Museum of Art (Oregon), and with the Millennium Gift of the Sara Lee Collection, for which the company won the National Medal for the Arts in 1999. He is Senior Advisor for International Art for the National Gallery of Australia and is working with Professor Stephen Eisenman of Northwestern University to catalogue the collection of 19th and 20th century French Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.


Dr. Brettell worked with Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn, former Ambassador to France, and Françoise Cachin, former Director of the French National Museums, to create FRAME (French/Regional/American Museum Exchange).


Dr. Brettell is actively engaged with architecture in Dallas, as a board member and founding president of the Dallas Architecture Forum, as a Consultant to Philip Johnson for The Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, and as curator of an exhibition devoted to "Five Dallas Modern Architects" for UT Dallas in January/February 2002. This exhibition has traveled to the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of Houston. He has published architectural criticism, including "Beyond the Golden Age: Three New Art Museums for Texas" in Southwest Review (Vol. 87, no. 4) and "Lost in Translation: Ando's Building for The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth" for CITE: A Quarterly publication of the Rice Design Alliance.

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