534 artists opened their homes and studios for the first weekend of the East Austin Studio Tour on Nov. 12 and 13 with an expected 30,000 visitors ranging from local to international.
Story by Danielle Drews
Pictures by Reagan Roswell
The East Austin Studio Tour is organized by Big Medium, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping Austin artists. They work to create a dialogue between the artists and the community that spans cultures, which appears to have happened with this year’s 15th tour.
Any artist, regardless of age is encouraged to participate in the East Austin Studio Tour—as long as they create between the boundaries of east of Interstate35, west of Highway 183, south of Highway 290, and north of Riverside Drive. The tour, which began in 2003 with only 28 artist studios, has grown to encompass the unique blend of culture and creativity that can only be found in East Austin. “The East Austin Studio allows me to interact with the audience, and get immediate feedback. It makes me feel like a bigger part of the community,” says Laura Barth Turner, a photographer and guest of the Cement Loop studio.
Artists open their studios or homes to visitors to exhibit their works, providing everyone with the chance to see not only their art, but the space that they create it in as well. The houses and studios created a very welcoming environment, and the artists themselves were eager to start conversations about their techniques and processes. Artists that didn’t have a studio or couldn’t open their homes were guests of other studios. There were houses that had each room devoted to a different artist and their creations.
An artist known as Frederick Douglass 21/7 Moore who sculpts intricate buildings and entire miniature cities out of erasers and carves blocks of wood—and who grew up in the east Austin area—says that the tour gives him the opportunity to “do something positive for my neighborhood.” Moore attended Syracuse University in New York; he implied that attending college was somewhat uncommon for most of his neighborhood friends, and was a turning point for him. Before college, where he started focusing more on his art, Moore says he had been involved in “selling dope and gang banging” but now, “people in the neighborhood look up to me for what I do.”
The artists used a variety of different mediums, and could create images and designs in practically any form imaginable. There were eraser sculptures, eggshell carvings, pencil and pen sketches, wood carving and furniture designs, welded metals, abstract paintings, surreal paintings, assemblage (using seemingly random objects to create a picture), photographs, ceramic pieces, and jewelry. Each artist, with their individual perspective, showcased their work in one or multiple mediums.
The tour creates an open environment for everyone, regardless of background, to come together over their appreciation for art and the individuals who create and display it. Steven Van Landingham, an artist and Iraq veteran who works predominantly in pencil, says that the tour provides a great way to reach new people and get them to see your background. “It’s nice to show that military individuals can relate and show good works,” Van Landingham says.
The artists have most of their works available to purchase, and one of the artists, Christine Vanderkaap, intends to donate the money that she raises through the tour to animal rescue and rehabilitation. This year is Christine’s first year to participate as an artist in the tour; the year before she participated as a spectator and says that the tour really shows how much Austin appreciates and supports artists. All the artists concluded that the tour served to connect the artists to the community. Every artist has a different way of looking at the world, which can perhaps be best exemplified through artist Katy David, who’s in her seventh year on the tour. David, who carves and dyes eggshells with intricate patterns, says that she uses even the eggshells she breaks in the process of dyeing and waxing because “usually it’s so beautiful inside. There’s so much beauty in something that’s broken.” Katy doesn’t let the disappointment of a broken eggshell—something that can take anywhere from two hours to two months to create—stop her from creating something exquisite.
Sad you missed the tour? You still have a chance to see the artists and their works on Nov. 19 and 20. You can find more information and artists’ locations at this website. In the meantime, check out these photos from this past weekend's studio tour.