You can go to a museum to see art. In Austin, you can see art in public places. But how many times do you have the chance to visit an artist in his or her studio and see the materials used to create art, view works in progress, and even see techniques used to produce the final product?
The City of Austin has temporarily banned public gatherings. Please stay home. The Free Fun in Austin calendar is only for live digital events at this time.
This weekend and next, May 9 & 10 and May 16 & 17, you have a chance to do just that at the 2015 West Austin Studio Tour. Perhaps most often referred to as simply WEST, this free, self-guided tour, organized by Big Medium, gives creatives the opportunity to invite the public in for an open house. This year is the 4th installment of WEST, which, as the name suggests, highlights the creative community west of I-35, east of Mopac, south of 183 and north of William Cannon. In November, you have a chance to see studios in a different part of town during the East Austin Studio Tour (or EAST).
I find that WEST is a great family activity because children appreciate seeing so many different types of art in a casual setting. The opportunity to ask questions of the artist and see how and where they work appeals to both children and adults. It is free to look (some events do have an admission fee), but we often walk away with something unique, which makes us feel good about supporting Austin artists.
That said, as the WEST catalog points out, organizers do not set any limitations on what artists are allowed to display during the tour. That means that some studios may contain artwork depicting nudity, sexual content or violence. I have found that if I do my research ahead of time, I can usually steer clear of artwork we could not be comfortable having our son see. I’ve also been surprised that sometimes my son does not notice or comment about some pieces, and that it can be easier to discuss a work of art later on or simply use distraction to move on.
Although I have not had a chance to visit the studios, I have combed through the WEST catalog (available at Austin Public Library locations, while supplies last) for stops which would appeal to my crew. Below are my top picks, with abbreviated descriptions taken from the catalog.
Ney Day (304 E. 44th) – May 16, noon until 5:00 p.m.
Celebrate Elisabet Ney, her art and legacy of empowerment. Visit her studio, the oldest art building in town and enjoy the Yes Ma’am Brass Band, Tiarra Girls, Naga Valli, Jennifer Grey’s New Nose, SeVana Marimba, trapeze, fiction readings and many activities. This year, the Ney will unveil Dance of the Cosmos, an exciting new outdoor sculpture installation by Featured Austin Artist Jennifer Chenoweth.
2nd Street Public Art with Art in Public Places (starting at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd St) – Saturday, May 16, 10-11 a.m.
Discover new public art downtown! The walking tour starts at City Hall and showcases new artworks along 2nd Street from the Art in Public Places collection. Meet Collections Manager Maggie Stenzon the southwest side of City Hall Plaza.
1 – Olaniyi Akindiya • ARTWITHAKIRASH (2804 Thrushwood Dr., Apt A)
Olaniyi began studying fine art after receiving a degree in biochemistry in his native Nigeria. His multidisciplinary work explores the personal and the universal. On the first weekend of WEST, he had a huge sculpture made of recycled materials in his front yard.
2 – Weavers and Spinners Society of Austin (2802 Benbrook Dr.)
Fiber enthusiasts will introduce you to weaving, spinning, dyeing, basket making and felting as art. The members of the Weavers and Spinners Society of Austin use both ancient and contemporary techniques to create wearable art, functional items and other works of art. See work and observe weaving, spinning and indigo dyeing in progress. Lots of things to see and observe at this stop.
3 – Lalena Fisher • LalenaLab (3216 Crosscreek Dr., Suite 103)
Lalena’s work combines children’s animation, abstract expressionism and her grandmother’s quilts. Lalena will have painting, mixed media, textiles and sculpture on display during WEST. Lalena has a large canvas up for visitors to add onto.
7 – Darryl Freeman • Darryl Freeman Studio (7912 Tisdale Dr.)
Darryl is currently painting in the impasto style, which is a technique where a palette knife is used instead of a brush to apply paint to the canvas in heavy layers. His artwork, which focuses on the natural world, will be displayed on a property with two ponds, a greenhouse, extensive stone and tile work, a 1940s-era cottage, a chicken coop flowers and tropical plants. On the first weekend of WEST, my son fell in love with the three friendly pugs roaming the property.
16 – William Cauthern (6804 Pioneer Pl.)
William will be showing block print and found object sculpture during WEST. An experienced educator, he has been a member the McCallum Visual Arts faculty since 2002, where he currently serves as the Fine Arts Chair and teaches sculpture and printmaking. He developed his early painting and drawing skills under the direction of Madelon Umlauf, focusing primarily on abstract oil and acrylic work. Many William’s block prints are on sale for under $20.
33 – Industry Print Shop (6721 North Lamar Blvd., #110)
Industry Print Shop is a full-spectrum commercial screen printing shop and the home of a talented crew of artists. In addition to seeing works of art, you have the opportunity to purchase gig posters, fine art and t-shirts. The Shop is opening its posters from 8 years of printing and offering them, 5 for $20. During the first weekend, my son noticed a “bad word” on one of the machines. Kids can get a free t-shirt!
38 – Larry Goode (2014 Brentwood St.)
Larry Goode combines drawing, painting, antique paper from old books, found objects and other artifacts to create highly dream-like images.
48 – The Arc of the Arts Studio (4902 Grover Ave.)
The Arc of the Arts Studio & Gallery, a program of The Arc of the Capital Area, is a creative arts program for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 14 and older. The studio is a place where artists explore their own artistic process, learn job skills, and gain a strong sense of self-worth.
50 – Shawn Graham • Wortheffort Woodworking (937 Reinli St., #29)
Wortheffort Woodworking is a school and gallery specializing in teaching traditional hand-tool woodworking to teens and adults. The shop’s woodworking is mainly made from area trees that have fallen over via natural causes, so the bowl you purchase or box you receive just might have grown down the street from you.
58 – Denise Fulton (4104 Avenue H)
Denise’s paintings are acrylic on wood panel. She works with paint that has been thinned with medium so that each mark is translucent, and the variations of thin and thick paint at the edges of the individual strokes add depth and complexity. The subject matter alternates between landscape and figures. Recently, she has been experimenting with paintings framed by vintage windows.
65 – Judy Paul • Judy Paul Studios (2205 Bridle Path)
Judy draws her inspiration from “the peace of Austin’s great outdoors, while simultaneously admiring our beautiful city skyline, vibrant culture and energy.” Her works are mixed media on panel and digital collage. She will have a collaborative painting the first weekend of WEST.
69 – Julian Hector (1620 Waterston Ave., Apt. 101)
Julian Hector is an author, illustrator and graphic designer. He was raised in Driftwood went to New York to study illustration. He moved back to Austin last May. His work can be seen at Qui, East Side King, and bookstores across the country.
117 – Avery Orendorf • Southside Gaiety Hall Artists Co-Op (707 W. Live Oak St.)
Avery paints wall murals and unique furnishings and other pieces. She started Avery O Design to share her love of art and design with other Austin area residents, while still dedicating time to life’s many great adventures.
160 – Mindy Graber • Mindian Designs • Thorton Road Studios (2309 Thorton Rd., Studio J)
Mindy works to find a path back to our images and more basic forms of expression to heal the heart. She uses a variety of materials to create a flow of texture and color that evokes a sense of playfulness and motion. The bulk of her work is hand cut glass, stone, ceramic tile and found objects.
162 – Creative Side Metal Works • Thorton Road Studios (2311 Thorton Road, Studio Q)
Creative Side Metal Works will have live jewelry making demos during WEST.
172 – Virginia Fleck (1900 Larchmont Dr.)
Virginia Fleck’s work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe. At the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York, Fleck began working with plastic bags in 2002, after being awarded a fellowship for travel and exhibition in Cuba. She determined that plastic bags, being lightweight and plentiful, were ideal for creating an inflatable sculpture that she would take to Cuba to exhibit. Once she had cut and flattened dozens of them, she began to notice a tone to the “chatter” printed on the bags, which ranged from amusing to disturbing. The bags seemed to tell the story of our times in visual sound-bites delivered by the logos and slogans. For the past ten years she has been making mandalas from plastic bags and has accumulated an extensive collection from all over the world.
217 – Jennifer Chenoweth • The Hedonic Map of Austin and the Dance of the Cosmos (Elisabet Ney Museum: 304 E. 44th St.) On the second weekend of WEST, a new large sculpture “Dance of the Cosmos” will premiere during the Ney Day Celebration.
253 – Art from the Streets (Mockingbird Domestics: 2151 S. Lamar Blvd.)
For more than 20 years, homeless or formerly homeless individuals from around Austin have found their way to free, twice-weekly open studio sessions, hosted by Art From The Streets volunteers in downtown Austin. In addition to providing a safe and supportive environment for creativity, Art From The Streets gives the artists the opportunity to sell their work and earn money. This historic annual exhibition features more than 2,000 new art pieces for sale, including paintings and drawings, photography, jewelry, and pottery.
262 – ART on 5th (3005 S. Lamar)
ART on 5th has an eclectic collection of local, national, and international artists in a 7,000 square foot space. Along with a permanent collection of “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” the gallery houses hundreds of original film posters from all over the world dating from the 1930s to today. Artists will be painting live during both weekends of WEST.
263 – Recycled Reads Staff Exhibition (5335 Burnet Rd.)
Works in various media will be on display, including digital, painting, sculpture, from reused and repurposed material.
264 – The Mom Gallery • All The Things (307 E. 38th St.)
“All The Things” is a pop-up show exhibited in The Mom Gallery, produced and made by the four FIC members, exhibiting works that have been created in a reverse process, first creating titles and then creating works based off of the titles. The show will focus on comical and playful titles that have been inspired from daily interactions and conversations.
267 – Open Door: A Celebration of the Arts (2130 Guadalupe Street)
“Open Door: A Celebration of the Arts” will include the artists who have shown in the Gallery at University Baptist Church, showing and selling their work, demos performed by the artists, art activities for the kids, plus finger foods and beverages.
Other art during WEST:
Umlauf Sculpture Garden is offering free admission both weekends of WEST.
We’ll be checking out WEST the first weekend. If you do as well, please let us know which stops your family particularly enjoyed (or not) and we can update this list for the following weekend!