Hundreds of studios open their doors to the public.
By Leo B. Carter
The 12th annual E.A.S.T. unfolded on the Eastside the weekends of Nov. 16 through 17 and Nov. 23 through 24. Showcasing 160 studios and stretching from south of Cesar Chavez Street to north of 51st Street, and from east of I-35 to west of Hwy. 183, the tour was a city unto itself. This correspondent, in consecutive Saturday appearances, barely scratched the surface of the massive event.
Artists with expertise in every imaginable medium opened their doors to a city of people who, by-and-large, were unaware of how expansive the Austin art scene truly is. What better way to find out? During the brief four-day span, people could see professional works and often actively participate in the art-making process in open workshops covering everything from sculpture and glass blowing to experimental performance art.
Holly and Joseph Kincannon, trained stone carvers and architects, invited people in to try their hand at traditional base relief carving with a hammer and chisel.
“I did this design work to pull in the community,” Holly Kincannon explains. “This is an abstract that a lot of people can contribute to and add some energy to the studio.”
The blend of warm Texas hospitality and an atmosphere of mutual artistic creation created a friendly and inclusive environment everywhere during the tour.
“If you look around, you’ll see a lot of Old World aesthetic, but we like to bridge over to the modern,” she continues.
The couple’s detailed work in limestone, in the form of giant sea urchins and other fossil-like designs, can be found adorning the exterior of the Palmer Events Center.
Haley Gillespie, owner of the Art Science Gallery, showcases the intersecting worlds of art and science and celebrates our greatest and most often overlooked artist: nature.
“Right now, we have an exhibition on entomology,” Gillespie says.
Looking around the space, observers will find everything from highly detailed macro-photography and digital art, to paintings produced by darkling beetles and steam-punk ants made from the remnants of bicycles.
The suspension acrobats of Sky Candy held performances at their studio on East Sixth Street, where they had a photo booth in which you could hang upside down in an apparatus.
At the Museum of Human Achievement, a two-story, ramshackle refuse play-scape, was opened to the public, complete with a glass-breaking station where participants hurled beer bottles at broken cymbals, and speakers that constantly pumped an endless stream of white noise torture at people were caught in the webs of string and shredded plastic bags.
For those interested in more consumable art, some of Austin’s microbreweries also opened their doors to tours and tastings. Hops and Grain invited people in to try some of their most popular beers, as well as a few experimental ones available only available at the taproom.
“We brew beer,” Owner Josh Hare announced. “Because we want everyone to be intoxicated with life and use our beer as a catalyst for conversation.”
In addition to the opportunity of seeing many small and seldom visited studios, it was an unexpected pleasure to walk through one of the older, more colorful and quintessentially Austin neighborhoods, just beyond the reach of encroaching gentrification. Old Austin is still visible here, and it becomes clear the type of environment that is needed to encourage such a concentration of artistic talent.
One of the main events of the tour on the evening of the second Saturday was the pinewood derby race put on by the industrial art studio Blue Genie.
“This is the second annual Danger Derby,” artist Josh Krezinski says. “We all fell in love with the idea immediately.”
The Danger Derby track is a two-story installation running from the roof of the studio and complete with three hazards: a jump over flame jets, a rotating saw blade and a swinging anvil. The only rules that evening were that the cars weigh no more than 10 pounds and, in the interest of everyone’s safety, no one crossed the yellow caution tape. Those cars that made it through the hazards and farthest down the track without exploding into flames or being crushed by the anvil, would advance to the following rounds. Plenty of spectators came to witness the event in spite of the damp, wintry weather. Deep Eddy Vodka and Thirsty Planet provided free libations that, along with the scattered fire pits and gas heaters, helped stave off the cold.
“The Danger Derby this year is benefiting our neighbors, Habitat for Humanity,” Krezinski says.
Events like this one are meant to bring the community together in support of a cause, but also to foster creativity and a sense of youthfulness in everyone. If you missed it this time, be sure to clear your schedule next year on these two weekends in mid-November. For information on the events and all the studios that participated, go to eastaustinstudiotour.com, and be sure not to miss the West Austin Studio Tour next spring.