Karen L. Maness

Find out about Karen Maness's work in producing theatrical sets, attractions, displays and her co-authorship of the book, The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Lecturer and Charge Scenic Artist, Texas Performing Arts

Karen Maness is a visual artist, designer and educator with thirty years of painting and fabrication experience for the entertainment industry. Lecturer with The University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance, The School of Design and Creative Technologies and Scenic Art Supervisor for Texas Performing Arts, her courses build upon a culture of encouraging risk-taking, academic rigor, excellence in execution and mutual respect. Maness has worked extensively in theatre, themed attractions, industrial display and music tours teaching master classes in the U.S.A. and abroad. Maness is a proponent of digital-analog fluidity for artists and hands-on, project-based, interdisciplinary team collaboration. She believes the future of education and innovation lies in the spaces between disciplines, actively exploring these concepts through emergent pedagogy projects in design and fabrication. She has dedicated her life's work to developing future artists and the preservation of painting knowledge as a key to visual storytelling. She is the co-author of the award-winning The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, the definitive behind-the-scenes history of Hollywood's motion picture scenic art. Her studio practice includes public art, exhibitions, corporate and private commissions.

    What do you enjoy most about being a part of the UT Theatre and Dance community?

    Building new opportunities and meaningful artistic experiences with students.

    What is your favorite thing about Austin?

    The expanse of creative partners and potential.

    maness book banner

    Scenic Art, Hollywood Motion Picture Scenic Art History, Figurative Painting, Emergent Pedagogy Courses - Special Projects in Design and Fabrication

    Scenic Art, Environmental Rendering, Figure and Fabric Painting, Performance as Public Practice-Design, Special Projects in Design and Fabrication

    Recent Publications

    • The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, Regan Arts 2016, co-authored by Richard Isackes
    • "A Heritage Explored and Recovered"
      Perspective, The Journal of the Art Director's Guild, 2015
    • "Scenic Art and The Sight-Size Method"
      The Painter's Journal: Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 2006
    • “Soft Skills with Teeth: Creating authentic learning environments with charismatic megaproject,”
      Journal of Themed Experience and Attractions Studies: Volume 1, Issue 1, 2018, co-authored by J.E. Johnson
    • “Preserving A Legacy: Backdrop Recovery Project”
      Perspective: A Journal of the Art Directors Guild, 2018, co-authored by Tom Walsh

    Recent Works

    • "Sky's the Limit" Mural - McComb's School of Business, UT Austin, 2019
    • Producer for "The Creek Monster Habitat," Creekshow 2019, Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, Austin, TX
    • Universal Creative, final concept interior mural art for major Fantasy-Based IP Attraction, 2018.

    Contact Information


    Campus location
    PAC 3.416