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5 things to know about Art City Austin

69-year-old fest remains family friendly

Michael Barnes
Perry Stephens takes a photo of his son, Kairo Trinh, at Art City Austin in 2014. [DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN FILE]

We talked to Art Alliance Austin executive director Patricia Shults about the Art City Austin Festival, a 69-year-old Austin tradition that has gone under various names, most famously Fiesta at Laguna Gloria. After three indoor years, it returns to its al fresco roots April 13-14, with a preview party April 12. Expect visual art of all varieties and materials along with samples of musical, spoken and culinary arts.

1. The festival goes outdoors again, this time at the recently renovated Republic Square Park.

Patricia Shults: Yes, we are back at one of our original locations. Now, Fiesta was always at Laguna Gloria, but Republic Square Park was our first location after the Fiesta years in 1999. The festival actually started in 1950 as the "Spring Juried Art Fair" at the Coliseum on Town Lake (now demolished). It moved to Laguna Gloria in 1957 as Fiesta. In that era, the Women's Guild ran the event and it was 100 percent in support of Laguna Gloria. It was on Cesar Chavez for quite a few years and also on Congress Avenue. When the city put a moratorium on street festivals, it moved to the Palmer Events Center for three years. The outdoors, though, is part of its character. And it's the second oldest outdoor festival in Austin, second only to the Kite Festival.

2. The fest is more art oriented than craft oriented these days.

P.S.: Really, it's expanded beyond fine arts even. We are showcasing Austin's creative spirit in a variety of ways. We have the "Art of Food" at the H-E-B Culinary Stage and the "Art of Music and Performance" at Amika Performance Stage, with music and artist talks, some from groups such as Art From the Streets. It's a convergence fair, so that Republic Square becomes a place where all these things come together.

3. It's still a ticketed, family-friendly event, although prices have risen since the early 1950s, when a ticket cost 25 cents.

P.S.: Kids 12 and under attend for free. Then we have ticket packages that run $15 for two days, or a VIP experience for $50 with access to a lounge and the food and drinks there. The preview party comes with unlimited food, drink and entertainment on Friday night, April 12, and is priced at $80.

4. The party stretches far beyond the park.

P.S.: We also have behind-the-scenes tours of nearby clusters of art, so like Mexic-Arte Museum, Waller Creek Conservancy, Blanton Museum of Art, the Contemporary Austin and some corporate collections.

5. In the end, artists benefit.

P.S.: Over the course of our history, we've given $2.2 million back to Austin museums. Our focus has changed as the city has changed. Now we are a general promoter of the arts. Art Alliance Austin offers a spotlight for our city's creative community, and this is our biggest fundraiser, as well as our biggest legacy. At the festival we also showcase 80 artists, commissioning five original works, and we have extended our partnership with our historical collaborators that now make up the fabric of our city. We are showing off to the world that Austin is an art city.


Art City Austin Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a preview party 6 to 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Republic Square Park in downtown Austin

Cost: Tickets start at $15