Daniel Johnston

The UT System Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Institute will accept applications for $100,000 seed grants for human brain research.

The institute, which the UT System Board of Regents established in August 2014, will be giving up to a total $5 million to applicants in an attempt to enhance brain research, according to a statement from the UT System.

The seed grants, which are grants that go toward approved projects, will fund innovative brain research projects, according to institute director Daniel Johnston. Johnston said he is expecting around 200 applications from UT System institutions.

“The purpose of the seed grants is to allow researchers to pursue new high-risk areas of research and to form new collaborations with other scientists that might not have occurred without the seed funding,” Johnston said.

Patricia Hurn, UT System vice chancellor for research and innovation, said the institute, also known as UT Brain, will benefit from the seed grants because the researchers will be in a better position to receive federal funding.

“The really important output is that our researchers be well-positioned to compete for the national [Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN)] Initiative,” Hurn said. “To do that, they need to be not only fabulous scientists, but they need to be innovative.”

Because of decreased federal funding for neuroscience research, there will be increased national competition, according to mechanical engineering professor Dale Klein.

Although the seed grants will only be available for UT System schools, they are intended to garner competition for federal grants.

“It appears that federal funds are going to become more challenging to obtain, [and] the amount will be reduced, so the competition is going to be more challenging,” Klein said. “So this seed grant is to put people together to be more competitive for what we expect to be reduced federal funds for research.”

UT-Austin will be administering the grants in a partnership with the UT System. Applicants for the seed grants will come from departments and faculties from across the state, Klein said.

“The applicants we expect will be mainly within the UT System campuses, but they could also partner with schools outside the system,” Klein said. “Our funds will only be to the System schools. We expect it will be the neuroscience faculty or those faculty involved in that.”

President Barack Obama announced the launch of the BRAIN Initiative in April 2014. The initiative is “focused on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain,” according to a White House statement.

“Currently, the BRAIN Initiative that President Obama is pushing is several hundreds of millions of dollars per year,” Klein said. “So what we want to do is enable our faculty to be more competitive to go after those funds.”

The UT Neuroscience and Neurotechnology Institute was founded to foster collaboration among researchers, according to Klein.

 “It really is intended to enhance communication among the faculty at both the academic and the medical health-science institutes to help focus on research needs,” Klein said.

(From left to right) Blair Robbins, Sam Jordan, Miles Kelley, and Dan LeVine are members of local band Milezo. Their music’s mixed-genre rock sounds reflect the band’s quirky and laid back character.  

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

Back on the campus he called home for several years as an American studies student, Miles Kelley’s frizzy hair, tastefully careless slouch and crossed arms give every indication of someone who has put aside his UT degree to pursue a career in music. Plan II and studio art junior Blair Robbins, her Dr. Martens laced tightly around her ankles, joins him outside the Flawn Academic Center. 

Together, the current and former UT students make up half of Milezo, a mixed-genre band from the intricate web of Austin musicians. 

What began as a name to ascribe his Myspace uploads to, Milezo has turned into a full time project for Kelley. 

“Milezo has been my alias for music since I was like 16 or so, and that’s why the name’s so silly,” Kelley said. “I never thought it would actually be a thing so I guess I’ll just go with it.”

The group’s current member lineup has been solid for almost a year now, and it released its first album last October under the name Milezo & the Noise.  

Kelley’s vocals are somewhat reminiscent of what Daniel Johnston might sound like if he were happier and had grown up listening to Beach House or Real Estate. The album plays it safe, but for someone who admits he can’t read music, the songs are all well written and well executed.

“I did orchestra in middle school but I got a referral for, like, surfing on my [instrument] case and it left a big mark on the ground, I was just like a class clown,” Kelley said. “I took classical guitar for a year at McCallum High, but it was more an excuse to play music and hang out with my friends.”

Some remnants of Kelley’s class clown-worthy humor still remain, but he seems to be more serious about his music than he was in the midst of his middle school orchestra days.

“The fact that you’re totally in control of the music is really cool, and the fact that it’s just creating something that’s never been there before is really cool,” Kelley said. 

Robbins, who plays keys for the group, took a more refined approach to music than Kelley. She took piano lessons throughout her childhood and has been teaching herself guitar on and off for the past few years.

Unlike Kelley, who has been recording music since the days of Old Myspace, recording is a relatively new concept to Robbins.

“I never really started fully appreciating recording until I met Miles, but now I’m realizing how awesome it is to have a record of yourself and finish something and be proud of it,” Robbins said. 

According to Kelley, the group is in the process of recording two more albums right now, one at a home studio, and another at Raw Paw Studios, where they recorded their first album. He said the goal for this year is to release two to three more albums and continue to grow the band’s presence and following in Austin.

“It was kind of off the radar until like about a year ago,” Kelley said. “But we have some really cool fans now who seem to be really into it.”

As for the next five years, Kelley has some pretty lofty goals.

“In like five years, we’ll be playing ACL and I’ll be the speaker at South By Southwest and I’ll give a speech about how you can do it, too,” Kelley said, “and I’ll be hanging out with Daniel from Spoon all the time.”

In the meantime, Milezo can be seen playing at house shows and local venues in Austin. 

Education sophomore Brent B. and Austin native Camille Reid hang out on top of Castle Hill graffiti walls on Baylor street Monday afternoon. The two consider the walls an attraction where families and tourists come to visit even though it was once known as a place where the homeless linger. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The stretch of Guadalupe Street that runs along the western edge of the UT campus serves as a condensed sampling of all things Austin. From the taco bars to kitschy vintage clothing stores, the Drag provides UT students and visitors with all the comforts of Austin just steps fromthe campus.

Perhaps the quintessential aspect of the Drag, however, is not the breakfast tacos or the overpriced pizza slices but the colorful art that adorns the walls of the businesses that line the sidewalk.

Guadalupe Street is home to one of Austin’s most iconic pieces of street art: Daniel Johnston’s “Jeremiah the Innocent,” most commonly referred to as the “Hi, How Are You?” frog, which marks the beginning of the Drag.

Johnston’s frog has boldly sat on the otherwise blank wall at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets since Sound Exchange records commissioned the piece in 1993, but there have been attempts to deface the frog over the past 18 years. In this case, graffiti is serving as the bully to its more sophisticated relative, street art.

Julia Narum, leader of the graffiti abatement initiative through the Austin Youth Development Program, said the UT campus and the neighborhoods surrounding it are a highly targeted arena for graffiti and tagging.

“There are some things that are iconic that we respect,” Narum said. “But other people have come along and done graffiti on top of it.”

Aside from the commissioned murals of Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan and, of course, Johnston’s frog, there are plenty of haphazardly sprayed tags that stand unabashedly on many campus and city surfaces.

“Per month, complaints of graffiti have been increasing a lot,” Narum said. “For October 2011, we had 163 [complaints]. For October 2012, we had 290 complaints and those all came through 3-1-1.”

Austin citizens are encouraged to report to 3-1-1 graffiti sightings, from tags on blank surfaces to tags over pieces of commissioned art. Narum’s graffiti abatement crews then remove the reported blemishes as well as any other tags in the area.

According to Meghan Turner, administrator of the Art in Public Places program, it is not hard to distinguish graffiti from commissioned street art.

“There is a distinction between painted mural pieces and graffiti,” Turner said. “Usually graffiti is things like tagging.”

Art in Public Places is a city ordinance-driven program that allows for site-specific artwork to be commissioned around the city. This includes a wide range of media, from statues to murals and the occasional gate.

“We don’t commission very many murals anymore,” Turner said. “Murals are one of the hardest things to maintain over a long period of time.”

Turner said this has to do with the durability of paint on outdoor, concrete walls and also the fact that graffiti makes common, unwanted guest appearances on many of the city’s elaborate murals.

Narum said sometimes the artists who created pieces of art come to touch up the murals when graffiti appears over them.

Art professor John Clarke has studied graffiti and its role in more formal art settings.

“Graffiti is something that is written or spray-painted on somebody else’s property,” Clarke said. “Street art should be art that is commissioned by the owners of the surface.”

Graffiti, no matter how elaborate, does not have a place in the realm of art, Clarke said.

“It’s vandalism even if it has artistic merit because the people who own the property don’t want it to be there,” Clarke said.

There are several instances in Austin, however, where simple graffiti has been transformed into iconic examples of street art simply by reputation.

The “I love you so much” tag on South Congress Avenue has been immortalized through many Facebook profile pictures and even appears on canvases and other things that some innovative local artists sell and profit from.

Although the “I love you so much” tag first appeared as graffiti, Austinites can expect the piece to stick around for a while.

The same goes for Johnston’s iconic amphibian.

Despite the continued efforts of the graffiti abatement program, it is hard to walk anywhere in Austin without coming across some form of graffiti. It has blended into the walls, the sidewalks and the very fibers of the city.

“[Graffiti] is some form of a personal signature,” Clarke said. “Some form of saying, ‘I’m here, this is who I am.’”

Printed on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 as: Urban art vs. graffiti: Austinites attempt to preserve street art while limiting graffiti displays near campus