“Laguna Gloria is a place where people create memories; it is so special.”

– Judith Sims, Senior Director of Education, Art School & Laguna Gloria Site Director


All great projects we’ve engaged with here at ACGS have had many parts and have been possible thanks to many collaborators.  For our June 22nd screening of 1927 Lon Chaney silent masterpiece “The Unknown” with live, original film score (tix), our partners are the Alamo Drafthouse and AMOA-Arthouse.

Lately I’ve been sharing 7 vignettes about one of the brilliant musicians who is creating the film score.  But ever since our inspiring production walk-through of the gorgeous lakeside Laguna Gloria estate and grounds – where we’ll show the movie for 500 with multi-course feast and wine-pairings – I really wanted a chance to share stories about that unique Austin treasure.

There is no one better to ask than Judith Sims, Senior Director of Education, Art School & Laguna Gloria Site Director, who has been at Laguna Gloria for more then thirty years.  She was kind enough to share some memories and insights with me.

Matthew Hinsley: We at ACGS are very excited about this project, but it’s not the first time movies have been shown at Laguna Gloria right?  Could you share a memorable movie project?

Judith Sims: Films were shown regularly at Laguna Gloria from 1973 to 1988. We hosted everything from highly experimental European avant-garde cinema, to a retrospective of American independent film icon Stan Brakhage, to thematic series on Dashiel Hammet, Hardboiled Detectives, Women Film Directors, and Comedies of Remarriage. We co-sponsored film series with the Austin Film Society, the UT/RTF Department, Cinema Texas, and a host of other film groups.

MH: In walking the path to the lower grounds where we’ll show the movie, we passed a number of interesting and historic items including the gazebo and the gate and archway – could you tell me a bit about what people can expect to see on their journey to see this movie?

JS: Laguna Gloria was conceived by Texas Legend Clara Driscoll – noted philanthropist, cattlewoman, Democratic politician and gardener – who gained national fame as “the savior of the Alamo” (which she bought to rescue it from commercialization in 1903). As a passionate gardener and lover of antiquity, she was heavily influenced by her European travels. Laguna Gloria is laid out in accord with late 19th and early 20th landscape aesthetics: the upper grounds represent the beautiful (balanced, open visits, formal); the path to the point and lower grounds represent the picturesque (asymmetrical, mysterious, non-linear, rustic). The Path to the Point was called Lovers Lane by Driscoll and ended with a “folly” or Greek Temple, another nod to classical European garden features. Originally, before the Tom Miller Dam was built one could boat from downtown to the shores of Laguna Gloria, landing at this small Temple with its original State Capitol gates, and promenade on the winding path up to the Villa.

MH: What is your personal story at Laguna Gloria?  How long have you been there, do you have a particularly fond memory you’d like to share?

JS: I like to say that Laguna Gloria is a place where people create memories; it is so special. I have many memories myself having been here for over 30 years: people doing Tai Chi, dance and music performances in the amphitheatre, once with a real Venetian gondola gliding by on the night of a full moon. And, of course, the re-opening of Laguna Gloria after its restoration in 2003 was a magical event.

MH: What do you wish everyone knew about Laguna Gloria?

JS: Not only is it an official national treasure, but it’s an active site for learning (The Art School) and viewing art, as well as a unique natural site:

– It mirrors different U.S. regions (shoreline, prairies, woodlands and uplands)

– LG as a gateway to the Hill Country is an apt metaphor that acknowledges its interlocking of eastern and western plants and animals, as well as typifying the north-south migratory bird flyway along Texas’ rivers.

– Over 150 bird species have been sighted, especially migratory waterfowl.