James Turrell press page

James Turrell’s artistic medium is light—not paintings that depict light, nor sculptures that incorporate light, but simply light itself. His art offers viewers the opportunity to have unique and intimate experiences with light and to appreciate its transcendent power. Located on the rooftop of the Student Activity Center, The Color Inside is Turrell’s eighty-fourth Skyspace. It is distinctive for its intimate proportions, elegant palette, lyrical lines, and brilliant washes of color that can be experienced during specialized light sequences at sunrise and sunset, causing the sky to appear in unimaginable hues. Also available for observation during the day, the Skyspace offers a quiet, contemplative space for the campus community and visitors.

More information

Landmarks commissioned artist James Turrell to create a Skyspace for the rooftop of the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center at 22nd Street and Speedway. High above the center of the busy university campus, the Skyspace provides a quiet and airy chamber for contemplation.

The William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center was designed by Overland Partners architects who also served as lead architects for the Skyspace. The green roofs that surround the Skyspace were initially designed by Walter Hood and implemented by Bender Wells Clark.

Funding for the Skyspace was provided by the capital improvement project that included the William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center and the College of Liberal Arts. Numerous individuals lent their support to this project and Landmarks would like to give special thanks to the following:


Andrée Bober and Landmarks
Pat Clubb and University Operations
Douglas Dempster and the College of Fine Arts
Randy Diehl and the College of Liberal Arts
Landmarks Advisory Committee
William Powers and the Office of the President
Bob Rawski and the Office of Facilities Planning and Construction
David Rea and the Office of Campus Planning
Andy Smith and University Unions
Bill Throop and Project Management and Construction Services
Samuel Wilson, Sharon Wood, and the Faculty Building Advisory Committee

Project Team

Rick Archer, Overland Partners Architects
Andy Adkins, Office of Facilities Planning and Construction
Andrée Bober, curator and director, Landmarks
Hiram Butler, Hiram Butler Gallery
Paul Cornell, Office of Facilities Planning and Construction
Serena Hayden, SpawGlass
Eric Kennedy, SpawGlass
James Lancaster, Overland Partners Architects
Dan McClure, SpawGlass
Nisa Mason, project manager, Landmarks
Ryan Pike, James Turrell Studio
Michael Uyeda, Office of Facilities Planning and Construction

Special Thanks

Grant Barger, College of Liberal Arts
Margaret Burke, education, Landmarks
Larry Clark and Bender Wells Clark
Fran Gale, School of Architecture
Funny Garbage, project website
Bill Haddad, technician, Landmarks
Lynn Herbert, curatorial contributor
Harvey Hix, poet
Walter Hood and Hood Studio
Philip Just, Go Design
Steve Kraal, Facility Services
Cody Kukulski, James Turrell Studio
Crystal King, University Unions
James Lancaster, Overland Partners
Tony Lee, James Turrell Studio
Steven Leslie, Office of the Vice President and Provost
Joel Love, composer
Mike Miller, Facility Services
Sally Moore, Facility Services
Beth Palazzolo, administrative coordination, University Operations
Nick Parras, William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center
Matthew Schreiber, James Turrell Studio
Patrick Sheehy, Vault Fine Art Services
Stephanie Taparauskas, development, Landmarks
Joe Tenbarge, College of Liberal Arts
Jennalie Travis, development, Landmarks
Kyung Turrell, James Turrell Studio
Rhonda Wheldon, University Operations
Catherine Williams, Silver Lining Art Conservation
Misa Yamamoto, College of Fine Arts


Top 10 Arty Ways 2020 Was the Best Year Ever

Barbara Purcell, The Austin Chronicle, 18 December 2020

1) VIRTUAL SKYSPACE: James Turrell's The Color Inside on the UT campus is closed for the time being, but you can still visit the famed oculus through the mind's eye with this online meditation. 

Have You Seen This Colorful Surprise on UT’s Rooftop?

Kelli McDonald, The Austinot, 20 August 2014

When a bird flew inches above our oval cutout, some of us gasped and then laughed at our response. Our slowly changing focal point had shifted suddenly and shot us out of a relaxed, contemplative state and back to the reality that we were staring at something ever-changing, yet accessible: the sky. 

Go Toward the Light: James Turrell’s "The Color Inside" Will Warm You Inside

Sarah Thurmond, Austin Monthly, 12 February 2014

If you have yet to venture to The Color Inside, you’re in for a real treat. Situated on the rooftop of the Student Activity Center at the University of Texas, this “Skyspace” by artist James Turrell is part meditation room, part art installation. 

Van Ryzin: Public art takes a leap forward

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Austin American-Statesman, 04 January 2014

It was a single tree — a fairly average-size cedar elm that in any other Central Texas landscape wouldn’t have seemed remarkable. 

Skyspace art stars fête James Turrell for UT installation

Shelley Neuman, CultureMap Austin, 24 November 2013

James Turrell’s Skyspace, The Color Inside, has found a happy home at UT’s Student Activity Center (rumor has it that the limited-audience installation atop the building, which is free but often requires advance reservations, is booked through the end of the month), and much credit for bringing the piece to campus is due to Andrée Bober, the founding director of UT’s Landmarks Program. 

Texas's Love Affair with James Turrell

Francesca Mari, Texas Monthly, 28 October 2013

“Terry Malick and James Turrell have been talking about doing a movie,” said Hiram Butler of the Hiram Butler Gallery in Houston, referring casually to the Austin director Terrence Malick. Butler, wearing a bowtie, has represented Turrell for 28 years and has been instrumental in establishing Turrell’s reputation, having sold more of Turrell’s art than anyone else—mostly to Texans. 

The Color Inside: A James Turrell Skyspace at The University of Texas

Hilary Pearson, Citygram Austin, 04 November 2013

As you approach The University of Texas at Austin’s Student Activity Center, you are immediately taken by its modern exterior – the great windows that cover the building allow light to stream through from within at any hour of the day or night. 

Love Affair Between One Artist and Texas

Francesca Mari, The New York Times, 26 October 2013

The morning before the opening of “The Color Inside” at the University of Texas, Austin, last week, James Turrell, the artist, was pushing melon around his fruit plate and holding forth on the psychology of perception. 

Skygazing with James Turrell

Anne Harris, The Austin Chronicle, 25 October 2013

We had read about artist James Turrell, the “sculptor of light,” last spring when his arresting Sunday New York Times Magazine cover story surfaced from under the pancakes. 



AUSTIN, TEXAS – James Turrell, one of the world’s most highly regarded living artists, will unveil The Color Inside, a permanent Skyspace on the rooftop garden of the Student Activity Center at The University of Texas at Austin on Saturday, Oct. 19th. 

Commissioned by Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, the Skyspace is an elliptical structure of white plaster with an opening in the ceiling through which visitors, seated on a bench, can see the sky. The Skyspace features custom LED lights that unleash brilliant washes of color at sunrise and sunset.

In naming The Color Inside, Turrell said, “I was thinking about what you see inside, and inside the sky, and what the sky holds within it that we don’t see the possibility of in our regular life.” 

The saturation and vibrancy of colors is further intensified by the intimacy of the space, which seats up to twenty-five people. 

“I can’t begin to do the experience justice,” said Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, after getting a sneak preview of the Skyspace. “As the hour-long program evolved slowly, the space was saturated with hues of gold and purple and green while the sky went from scudding, grey clouds to impossibly intense complementary hues of red, blue, purple. At one moment you’re seeing clouds, at another you're looking at a swirling sphere of hues that looked more like Jupiter than anything on Mother Earth.”

Andrée Bober, founding director of Landmarks, selected James Turrell for this site-specific installation. The university’s student body was developing the building program for the Student Activity Center, which opened in 2011. On the list of things the students imagined for the center was a “reflection room.”

“Beyond introducing an important example of contemporary art, The Color Inside offers beauty, grace, and inspiration to its visitors,” said Bober. “The Skyspace is accessible to audiences of many backgrounds and interests, even those who aren’t familiar with contemporary art. It encourages the kind of quiet reflection that cultivates attention.”

The optimal viewing times for experiencing Turrell’s art are at sunrise and sunset, during light sequences that last approximately an hour. The Skyspace is available for observation during other times of day as a quiet, contemplative space for the campus community and visitors.

The Color Inside opens Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. All viewings are FREE and open to all members of the university community and the general public. Hours of operation shift throughout the year.  Free reservations are encouraged around the opening of the Skyspace. For hours, reservations, and more information, visit www.turrell.utexas.edu.

Audiences are invited to join a FREE public conversation with James Turrell on October 18th at noon in the Student Activity Center Ballroom.  No reservations are required; limited seating is available. 

Special events surrounding the grand opening of The Color Inside:

Note: SAC stands for Student Activity Center


Friday, Oct. 18, 2013


Landmarks Conversation with James Turrell at SAC Ballroom

Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

6:25 a.m.–10 p.m.

Public Opening of The Color Inside on SAC rooftop garden


2 p.m. & 3 p.m. & 5 p.m. 

Walking tours to the Harry Ransom Center and Blanton Museum of Art to view additional works by James Turrell; tours meet on SAC rooftop

3 p.m., 4 p.m.,

String quartet performs composition by music student Joel Love inspired by the Skyspace; performances on SAC rooftop


Please note: Free reservations are strongly encouraged for opening day of the Skyspace and the following few weeks. For hours, reservations, and more information, visit www.turrell.utexas.edu. No reservations are required for the 10/19 walking tours to the HRC and BMA.

About James Turrell

James Turrell, who is known for his use of light as a medium, is one of the world’s most highly regarded living artists. His work has been the subject of hundreds of exhibitions for which he has received prestigious awards from the Guggenheim, Lannan, and MacArthur foundations. In 2013 he became the first artist to have three concurrent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Guggenheim Museum, New York.  Turrell’s most ambitious project is Roden Crater, an observatory created inside an extinct volcano in Arizona.

About Landmarks

Landmarks is the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin. In 2008, Landmarks was launched with the purpose of developing a cohesive collection of public art from a curatorial perspective. Its projects are located throughout the main campus and are viewed by thousands of people every day. The first initiative brought to the university twenty-eight modern and contemporary sculptures on long-term loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Since then, more than thirty works of art have beautified the main campus, engaging visitors and the university community with art of the highest quality. Recent installations include works by Sol LeWitt and an architectural projection by Ben Rubin (see press kit for complete list of artists and projects). Growth of the university’s public art collection is supported by a policy that sets aside one to two percent of ongoing capital improvement projects for an acquisitions fund, one example being Turrell’s new Skyspace.

Download the press release.



AUSTIN, Texas – Landmarks, the public art program of The University of Texas at Austin, announced today the reopening of James Turrell’s Skyspace, The Color Inside. Shuttered since March 2020 in response to the pandemic and for necessary conservation and maintenance, the installation will reopen to the public on February 14. Companion programs, including the popular Songs in the Skyspace music series, will resume on February 20. Reservations to visit the Skyspace are required and can be made online beginning February 1.

A unique cultural gem, The Color Inside is a freestanding, naked-eye observatory located in the heart of campus. Each sunrise and sunset, a pre-programmed light sequence fills the space with brilliant washes of color. Through Turrell’s masterful manipulation of light, the sequences cause the sky to appear in unimaginable hues. Among Austin’s most celebrated cultural destinations, the Skyspace is visited by more than 75,000 people each year.

Songs in the Skyspace, Landmarks’ monthly music series, will resume on February 20 with a performance by classical guitarist Justice Phillips. Hosted inside the Skyspace, the series features performers from across musical genres, representing a diverse mix of voices and instruments and a unique way to engage with Turrell’s elegant light sequence.

Songs in the Skyspace performance schedule

(List in formation; additional performances to be announced soon)

February 20: Justice Phillips (classical guitar)

March 20: Hum A Cappella (South Asian fusion a cappella)

April 16: Sound Bath Meditation with Sonic Starchild (singing bowls, chimes, gongs)

May 15: Beauties and the Beat (all female treble a cappella)

June 17: Lesly Reynaga (Latinx singer songwriter)

The Skyspace is free and open to all, but free reservations are required. Visitors may book tickets online at turrell.utexas.edu beginning February 1.

Landmarks thanks KMFA 89.5, Austin’s independent classical station, for their support of this program.

Download the press release.


Discover more about James Turrell and The Color Inside by visiting the collection page.




The University of Texas at Austin
College of Fine Arts
2616 Wichita St., A7100
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Austin, TX 78712

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Logan Larsen 
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