New exhibit at the Bullock takes you back to the ’60s and ’70s to understand the origins of Austin’s weirdness.
By Luisa Venegoni
The Bullock Texas State History Museum’s new When Austin Got Weird poster exhibit reminds us what first made our city unique and how we became the Live Music Capital of the World.
Who remembers what it really means to keep Austin weird? We flaunt the phrase on T-shirts and bumper stickers today, but many Austinites don’t know the origins of the slogan can be traced back to the city’s Golden Age of the 1960s and 1970s. During this period, musicians and artists flooded the once-small capital city and Austin’s label as an oasis of weird was fashioned.
To relive this countercultural era and discover the roots of the city’s live music scene, explore the Bullock’s new poster exhibit, When Austin Got Weird. The exhibit showcases vibrant, funky promotion posters from the ’60s and ’70s, featuring the artists, venues and musicians responsible for the emergence of the city’s cultural identity.
Pieces include incredible promotion poster designs for musicians like Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Pete Seeger, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Sir Doug and Asleep at the Wheel at venues such as the Vulcan Gas Company, one of the city’s first psychedelic music halls.
Engaging descriptions of selected musicians, poster artists and iconic music venues accompany the posters. In addition to these descriptions and histories, some pieces are complemented by a musical podcast series, which can be accessed by scanning QR codes with a smartphone. The series includes further explanations of the posters, along with songs by musicians featured in the posters, such as Ray Benson, Marcia Ball, Gary P. Nunn and Jimmie Vaughan.
When Austin Got Weird is on view in the museum’s third-floor Rotunda Gallery through Sept. 11. The exhibit supplements the fascinating 1968 Exhibit, which features pop-culture items from the era, including rock star Jimi Hendrix’s iconic purple jacket, and educator and television host Mr. Rogers’ sweater and sneakers, along with other vintage pieces, photographs and Vietnam War artifacts.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults.
The Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave., 512.936.4649 thestoryoftexas.com.
Created by Jim Franklin, Courtesy Texas Poster Collection, TPA_0184, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Copyright 1967 by Gilbert Shelton, Courtesy Soap Creek Saloon Archives, TPA_0403, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.