Artist hives are not new to East Austin.
Without an industrial past to leave a behind a warehouse-rich downtown, Austin artists search out neighborhoods that have the kind of flexible, affordable buildings typical of light modern manufacturing and ripe for converting into a good place in which to make an artistic mess - and for inviting a few like-minded creatives to join.
When the East Austin Studio Tour debuted in 2003, the greater public got a chance to see what many art insiders had known for a while - that the central East Austin area was rich with artists. And in the seven years since the first EAST, the scene has grown even richer. This year, the work of more than 300 artists can be seen at about 150 separate sites - at home studios, at galleries and at the many art hives where multiple artists carve workspaces out of a shared facility.
EAST is the production of Big Medium, a nonprofit artists organization that started in 2002 as a loosely formed art hive of its own in a stretch of beige warehouses just east of Airport Boulevard.
Artpost is one of the newer East Austin art hives. The three-acre plot on East Cesar Chavez Street sports a motley gathering of seven different buildings - from repurposed World War II Quonset huts to a barnlike building made of corrugated metal to a ranch house-styled cinderblock building that was once the Govalle Public Library.
And although most of the art hives that have emerged in East Austin are artist-run affairs, Artpost is the creation of commercial real estate developer Jim McCurry, a native Texan who spent a few decades in North Carolina building his career before returning to the Lone Star State a few years ago to feed 'the counterculture streak that's always been in me,' he says. And besides, he felt like visual artists needed a leg up in Austin.
'In Austin, the musicians are always at the top of the heap; they don't need any more help,' he says, noting that he signed his first tenant in 2006 soon after he purchased the property. 'But the visual artists need some place where they can come first.'
That doesn't mean Artpost is necessarily a music-less place. In fact, for EAST, McCurry's arranged for a little live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. But forget renting out the site for another Red Bull Moon Tower party during SXSW like in 2008 and 2009. Last year's party got out of hand and was shut down by the police, not what McCurry says he realized would happen when he agreed to rent out the property. 'I have no desire to do that ever again,' he says.
What he is pleased to see happen is to have artists such as Court Lurie, one of about two dozen who are Artpost tenants, find their way to the space. Lurie landed a lease in 2009 and loves her 800-square-feet studio with its natural light, perfect to paint her abstract paintings.
Among the tenants at Artpost, Lurie says, creative ideas are swapped right along with art supplies and words of encouragement. 'I love being a part of community,' she says, a sentiment echoed again and again by other Artpost tenants - among them, painter Katy Horan, jewelry maker Jodi Rae Brownstein, glass sculptor Nick Detrien and screenprinter Brian Maclaskey - during a recent stroll through the complex that McCurry has tidied up with a little native landscaping, fresh paint and other improvements.
Though it's a working community not regularly open to the public, the artists of Artpost host three annual open studio events separate from EAST, and McCurry and Lurie say there's the possibility they'll consider more.
Says Lurie: 'We're always looking at how we can be an incubator for the creative community.'
East Austin Studio Tour Events: Critic's Picks
(Unless otherwise noted, all events are free.)
Pay Phone Revival Project
What: Remember public pay phones? Maybe you don't remember a time before everyone had a cell phone. Artist Bridget Quinn began to regard the abandoned pay phone equipment she saw around town as moments in the urban landscape that seemed ripe for reinvention. So she went looking for artists interested in adding artistic flair (and fun) to the overlooked corners of the city where pay phones once stood center stage. Eleven artists applied their talents to abandoned pay phones at five different sites. The installations will be up Saturday through April 2011.
Bicycle tour: 3 p.m. Saturday. Join Quinn and the Yellow Bike Project for a bicycle tour of all the project locations. Meet at El Chilito, 2219 Manor Road.
Info: Find project locations at www.payphonerevival.com .
What: A free-spirited show that blends circus arts, performance art and vaudeville style into an eye-popping event for all ages. CircX VorteX stars the Sky Candy Aerial Collective as well as local circus performers, live music and local artists and vendors.
When: 7-9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Vortex, 2307 Manor Road
'Eyes Got It'
What: This summer, the art world puzzled over the reality television version of itself when Bravo broadcast the competition series 'Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.' Now, in a fun, irreverent and totally live send-up of the show, a panel of local arts professionals - Okay Mountain artist Sterling Allen, Women & Their Work gallery associate director Rachel Koper and Blanton Museum curator Risa Puleo - will give uncensored critiques of work submitted by local artists and eventually narrow it down to one winner. The prize? A solo show at Pump Project Gallery.
When: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Space 12, 3121 E. 12th St.
Blue Starlite Drive-In at Starving Art
What: A mini urban drive-in theater complete with window speakers for a dozen cars and plenty of walk-in spaces for pedestrians. And for EAST, the roster is stocked with films about art.
Film schedule: 'Moulin Rouge,' 8 p.m. Saturday. 'Pollock,' 7 p.m. Sunday. 'Basquiat,' 7 p.m. Monday. 'A Handmade Nation,' 8 p.m. Tuesday. 'Frida,' 7 p.m. Wednesday. 'Art School Confidential,' 7 p.m. Nov. 18. 'Factory Girl,' 7 p.m. Nov. 19.
Where: 2326 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Cost: $15 for a car spot, $2 for pedestrian entry
What: 'Pecha Kucha' is a Japanese term for the sound of chatter and in 2003, Tokyo designers started using the term to describe their social gatherings where creative types of all kinds present 20 images of their work spending no more than 20 seconds on each slide. A hip version of 'show and tell,' the Pecha Kucha concept spread around the globe, eventually catching on in Austin a few years ago. The EAST 2010 version of Pecha Kucha features, among others, artist Michael Ray Charles, photographer Will van Overbeek, musician and writer Jesse Sublett and puppeteers from Trouble Puppet Theater Company.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18.
Where: Texas Society of Architects, 500 Chicon St.
Artist hives: Critic's Picks
Where: 4104 E. Cesar Chavez St.
What: Seven buildings on nearly three acres house the studios of more than two dozen artists.
Music showcase: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The lineup includes Jeff Lofton Trio, the Blue Hit, Austin Piazzolla Quintet and Thor Bjorn, among others.
Where: 5305 Bolm Road
What: Where the East Austin Studio Tour was born. In 2002, the artist trio known as Sodalitas - Shea Little, Jana Swec and Joseph Phillips - colonized a row of warehouses just east of Airport Boulevard. They carved a gallery out of the cavernous space, encouraged fellow artists to open studios nearby and began a string of exhibits, one of which grew into the widely buzzed-about Texas Biennial. And the trio organized an open studio tour for East Austin artists, now the sprawling event known as EAST. Little, Swec and Phillips still work in the studios on Bolm Road, among several dozen artists.
Flatbed Press & Gallery
Where: 2830 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
What: In 1999 - before many identified East Austin as an arts destination - the highly-regarded fine art publishers Flatbed Press commandeered a warehouse, carving out a home for themselves, a gallery and studios for other artists. A retrospective exhibit of Flatbed Press opens later this month at the Austin Museum of Art.
Pump Project Art Complex
Where: 702 Shady Lane (main location) and 1109 Shady Lane (satellite location)
What: In 2005, a few artists found a big wooden 1950s warehouse just off East Seventh Street and started to carve out studios within it. Now, the Pump Project Art Complex is its own nonprofit organization sponsoring exhibits and events and has opened a satellite location a few doors down from the main studio complex. Between the two spots on Shady Lane, more than 50 artists and craftspeople call Pump Project their workspace.
Okay Mountain Studios
Where: 1619 E. Cesar Chavez St.
What: This past year has seen the 10-member artist collective known as Okay Mountain rocket to a whole new level of national art world attention. Back here in Austin, though, they stay busy at work in their shared studio space. Other noted artists whose work will be on display include Barry Stone, Ben Ruggiero, Faith Gay, Anthony Garza, Margaret Meehan and Ryan Lauderdale.
The Splinter Group
Where: East Fifth Street and Springdale Road (entrances at 405 Springdale Road and 4709 E. Fifth St.)
What: One of the original light industrial art warehouse workspaces that's actually, well, a workplace for architectural artisans. Metal artist Hawkeye Glenn and furniture maker Mark Macek form the basis of Splinter Group with other artisans.
Starving Art Studios and East Austin Trailer Park & Eatery
Where: 2324 E. Cesar Chavez. St.
What: Riffing on the trendy popularity of trailer eateries comes a compound that not only houses studio spaces for more than two dozen along with a gallery and a gift shop, but some trailer cuisine vendors as well. And at night, the place turns into a mini urban drive-in (and walk-in) outdoor movie theater. (See recommended events for a list of films screening during EAST.)
East Austin Studio Tour
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19 and 20
Where: Multiple locations
Info: Downloadable maps and a complete schedule of events at www.eastaustinstudiotour.com .
EAST goes mobile: Thanks to high-tech services donated by Group KGR, there's free mobile version of the EAST map and calendar at 2010east.com. Make, save and share your EAST route with others.