How to EAST: A newbie’s guide to the East Austin Studio Tour

The free EAST map, which has a key to all venues on the back, is available at all branches of the Austin Public Library.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the East Austin Studio Tour, colloquially known as EAST, starts this weekend. EAST is a city-wide event in which local artists open the doors of their studios to the public. Many galleries and organizations, do, too. This year, EAST runs the two weekends of November 10-11 and November 17-18.

If you’re like I used to be, you might be curious about EAST, but feel intimidated by its sheer size. (This year, there are almost 600 venues!) But fear not; EAST is totally do-able, and with some tips and advice, you’ll have a great time. When you’re through, you’ll have some tired feet, and a new appreciation of the vibrant art scene here in the ATX.

To get a better idea of what EAST is all about, I spoke to Jordan Gentry, director of programming at Big Medium, the Austin non-profit that puts on EAST and other art events throughout the year.

“Big Medium strives to provide opportunities for artists to create, exhibit, and discuss their work,” Gentry said. “During EAST all three coexist. We want to facilitate an inclusive cultural dialogue between artists and their communities in unique and intimate spaces.”

She explained that EAST began in 2003 with just 28 artists, but has grown exponentially. “In 2018, we have a record 585 artist studios, exhibitions, and art events,” she says.

I asked Gentry for her tips for how first-time folks can get the most out of EAST.

“The starting point of the tour is the EAST Group Exhibition, so I’d recommend beginning there,” she says. “Over 400 artworks by EAST artists are on display in this one location, so it allows you to get a good sense of your favorite artists and plan your tour.”

The Group Exhibition will be at Springdale General (1023 Springdale Road), and will be open during EAST weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and additionally November 9 and 13-16, from noon to 6 p.m. Gentry notes that you can pick up catalogs and maps at the Group Exhibition, and it’s a good chance to ask friendly Big Medium staffers your  questions about EAST.

To me, the trick to enjoying EAST is to decide what your goal is, and then use the free tools listed below to make a game plan ahead of time. Here are some goals and strategies:

GOAL: I want to see as much of EAST as I possibly can.

STRATEGY: Decide how many of the festival’s four days that you will tour EAST.

For each of day, choose one section of town, and map out several EAST venues to visit that are near each other. If you’re going to attend all four days, try doing one city quadrant per day (e.g., northwest Austin the first Saturday, northeast Austin the following day, and for the second weekend, tackle southeast and southwest Austin).

That’s a lot of art-hopping. To keep up your strength (and your smile), I recommend planning lots of breaks. A festival like EAST that takes you all over town presents a great opportunity to discover new-to-you places for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Use Yelp! (or something like it) to make planning easier.

GOAL 2: There’s a particular kind of art, or specific artists, I want to focus on.

STRATEGY 2: Use the map and other guides below to select choose artists and the venues that look the most interesting to you. Plan your route, which of course may take you all over town in the course of a single day. You might try starting at the farthest venue from home, and working your way back. Again, pick a new restaurant or coffee shop to try out on your trek, to give yourself a nice long break.

NO MATTER WHAT STRATEGY YOU CHOOSE, get yourself the app, the map, or the printed catalog (or all three):

The new, free EAST app is available from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. It has an interactive map of all venues, and is searchable by artist and medium (painting, sculpture, etc.).

You can pick up a detailed printed map to all EAST venues at any Austin Public Library branch, or download a PDF (though it’s tricky to print a usable copy).

I highly recommend getting a copy of the free, 264-page printed catalog. This book is great for pouring over and planning your strategy (and I personally like to hang onto it after EAST is over; it is just a handy guide to artists in Austin). As Gentry mentioned, the catalog is available at the Group Exhibition. You can also get one at Big Medium’s gallery (916 Springdale Road). Easiest of all, you can download the catalog and page through it on your tablet or computer.

No matter how much time you have to spend navigating EAST, the main thing is to have fun.

“EAST is unlike any other art event and requires curiosity, dedication, vulnerability, and a little bit of daring,” Gentry advises, “so don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in new experiences.”

Texas Museums Bucket List

Recently I wrote out my bucket list of the top five museums across the United States that I most want to visit. Closer to home, I’ve been to most of the major museums in Texas’ large cities. But an investigation into just how many art and part-art museums there are in the Lone Star State has blown my mind. After wading through this exhaustive list, I’ve narrowed down my bucket list to five. Some are in small towns, while others are big cities where other attractions have drawn my attention away for years.


Sunrise on the Prairie, 1885, by Frank Reaugh. Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.

Panhandle Plains Historical Museum

This museum piqued my interest after I read a few years ago that it has some watercolors by Georgia O’Keeffe, left over from when she taught art in Texas, early in her career. Upon further investigation, the museum has a number of other works I’d like to see. The collection focuses on the southwest, and includes an entire gallery of pieces by Texas Impressionist Frank Reaugh. (I learned a lot about Reaugh when I was writing for the Harry Ransom Center; see my Reaugh articles here and here.) It also holds examples of western art from Santa Fe and Taos, as well as a gallery of western illustrations.

Sir Winston Churchill, 1958, by Leo Michelson. Michelson Museum.

The Michelson Museum

Reading about the genesis of the Michelson Museum in the small east Texas town of Marshall fascinated me. It was created to house more than 1,000 works of Russian-American artist Leo Michelson, who never lived in Texas! His widow, who lived in New York and Paris (France, not Texas) selected the small town for her husband’s works on recommendation of friends from Marshall.

In addition to Michelson’s work, the museum houses a donated collection of 20th-century art as well as a collection of African masks and Chinese opera puppets! I need to see this for the sheer diversity and novelty factors.

Round and Round by Kaffe Fasset. Texas Quilt Museum.

Texas Quilt Museum
La Grange

I try to fight it, but sometimes I can be an art snob. Luckily, the older I get, the more I seem to mellow out and further appreciate the beauty and skill in so many kinds of folk art. Especially quilts, which display extraordinary skill and come in so many pleasing colors and patterns.

The Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange looks like a great place to take a quick day trip to from Austin.

Portrait of Queen Mariana by Velasquez, 1656. Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H. Meadows Collection, MM.78.01

The Meadows Museum

The Meadows Museum is on the campus of Southern Methodist University in downtown Dallas. It holds a world-class collection of Spanish masterpieces, which gives it the nickname the “prairie Prado.” Evidently Algur H. Meadows was a businessman who had to travel to Spain a lot, and ended up loving and collecting Spanish art. His donation to SMU forms the basis of the museum that now bears his name.

Currently, the Meadows is hosting a show of works by Salvador Dalí called Poetics of the Small, 1929-1936. How have I missed this place until now?

Photo by Jane Walker on show in Learning Curve at Houston Center for Photography.

Houston Center for Photography

I’ve wanted to visit the Houston Center for Photography for some time. I’ve looked at the striking images of their juried shows online fairly often. I don’t know a lot about photography, but this seems like a great place to learn more. And it’s right around the corner from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston — I’ve passed by it many times without going in! Next time.

Have you visited any of these museums? What are your tips? And are there other places in Texas you’d recommend as worthy of a road trip? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Homepage image by Anne Duncan in Learning Curves at Houston Center for Photography.


‘Holding Patterns’ Diverge at CAMIBAart

McCartney_Option A_cardboard
Option A, 2018, by Edward Lane McCartney. Photos by David D. Bailie, courtesy CAMIBAart Gallery.

Houston-based artist Edward Lane McCartney’s second show at CAMIBAart Gallery is an eclectic mix of a handful of different kinds of art.

My favorite of the bunch are from the series he calls Typecast: These are mixed media creations of designs fashioned from cardboard, folded paper, and other items fit into shapes corralled within a frame. Nearly monochromatic, it’s the play of shapes and textures which provide the interest in these pieces. I marvel at what an artistic mind can do with a simple substance like cardboard.

Another favorite are McCartney’s group he calls the Arabesque Series: These are layered cutouts of different colors stacked within a frame. The stacking creates an intricate, three-dimensional design. It’s basic, but the strength here in is the simplicity. A strong mix of colors and shapes that kind of reminds me of Matisse’s late-life paper cutouts.

Arabesque #17, 2018, by Edward Lane McCartney.

‘Holding Patterns’ also includes a wealth of jewelry and metalworks by McCartney. These include an example of his portrait boxes which he makes each year. My favorite piece in the metalwork display was an unusual, small jewelry box with a lid that reminded me of the onion domes on Russian Orthodox cathedrals.

The show, “Holding Patterns,” is open through this Saturday, October 13.

Image on homepage is Enter, 2018, by Edward Lane McCartney.


‘Beauty on Water’ Kicks off Season for Austin Chamber Music Center

Charles Wetherbee (left) and Michelle Schumann perform Emil Hartmann’s Serenade, Opus 24. (author photos)

This past Saturday, I checked out Austin Chamber Music Center’s season opener, “Beauty on Water” at Northwest Hills United Methodist Church. It was first of a season dubbed Landscapes, in which each performance will highlight works from a different culture or country. This program featured the music of Scandinavian composers.

Performers included guest artist Håkan Rosengren from Sweden on clarinet, violinist Charles Wetherbee, cellist Bion Tsang, and the center’s artistic director Michelle Schumann on piano.

Håkan Rosengren (right) performs Tor Aulin’s Aqvareller with Schumann.

“Beauty on Water” included works from the Dane Emil Hartmann and Swedes Tor Aulin and Elfrida Andrée, as well as a work by Beethoven. All of the Scandinavian composers were new to me, and I really appreciated this exposure to a different culture.

I was particularly thrilled to meet Elfrida Andrée. Not only was her piece my favorite of the night, with a full, dramatic sound, but her life story turned out to be fascinating!

Throughout the evening, Michelle Schumann provided a brief commentary on each selection. Prior to Andrée’s Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor, Schumann told the audience that Andrée had been a gifted organist in nineteenth century Sweden, where it was illegal for women to hold official organ posts in churches. Andrée and her family sued the government over this, and won. Andrée soon became organist at Gothenburg Cathedral, the most coveted organ post in the country. And as evidenced by Saturday’s performance, Andrée was also a gifted composer.

Left to right: Wetherbee, Schumann, and Bion Tsang take a bow after performing Andrée’s Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor.

In addition to professional performances, the Austin Chamber Music Center offers chamber music coaching to students of all ages. Saturday night, as a pre-show treat, violin student Weiran Jiang performed a delightfully lyrical piece, accompanied by Schumann.

Landscapes runs through the end of April. Programs include Nostrovia, featuring Russian composers; It’s all Greek to Me; East Meets West; and Melting Pot. Concerts are given twice, once on a Friday night in a private home, and then again on Saturday night at a public venue. The Friday concerts are sold out, but tickets remain for all Saturday performances. Prices for these run $25-$45.

Bunnies and Dead Presidents on Parade at The Russell Collection

Mongolian. All images by Hunt Slonem, courtesy The Russell Collection.

I visited The Russell Collection last weekend at its new home in the Whit Hanks center on West 6th Street to check on their ongoing show of Hunt Slonem. The gallery’s new digs are lovely — wide open spaces with high ceilings, white walls, and concrete floors. Modern, but not too industrial. Slonem’s colorful paintings covering every wall warm it right up.

The Russel Collection is known for brining in big-name artists to Austin. I’ve seen pieces by Degas, Cassatt, Pissarro, and the like there. I confess that I have been going to their opening receptions for years because in addition to damn fine art, they trot out the best h’ors d’ouvres and throw the best parties.

Lincoln on Orange

I wasn’t familiar with Hunt Slonem prior to this show, but I find that I like his work. The riot of color I encountered on that rainy Friday gave me a mental lift, and the bunnies and parrots everywhere around me lent a bit of humor to the rarefied atmosphere of the gallery. These bunnies aren’t cute, mind you — they’re serious bunny business, peeking out from their elaborately carved gold frames.

orange Wing

Slonem’s work can be found in some major American museums, including the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Whitney in New York, according to the Russell Collection. I’m impressed.

The World of Hunt Slonem will be be on view through September 30.

Homepage image is Slonem’s Finches.

Who’s a Pretty Bird? Watercolors Light Up Wally Workman Gallery

Juvenile Blue Jay, 2016. All images by Carol Dawson, courtesy Wally Workman Gallery.

I stopped into Wally Workman Gallery a few days ago after a jaunt through the rain to check out a new show of watercolors by artist and writer Carol Dawson.

I was greeted at the door by Wally herself, an ebullient lady who has presided over her West 6th Street gallery for 38 years.

As I made my way through a parade of Dawson’s painted buntings, owls, and cardinals — even an exotic roseate spoonbil — they cocked their heads at me curiously,  wanting to know what I was doing there. I was both admiring them and taking refuge from a suddenly violent rainstorm.

Female Cardinal IV, 2017.

In some ways, these images are familiar. Dawson is showing us nature. But there’s a twist: The birds, often a riot of color and personality, have been magnified to almost human size. They look you square in the eye, as if to say “this is our world, too.”

Hanging out with these birds made a refreshing change for me. I’ve been viewing a lot of abstract art around town lately. Good stuff, but it makes a nice change of pace to view some art that’s unapologetically representational.

Dawson’s watercolors, which also include some botanical art, are on view through September 29.

Watercolor on homepage is Dawson’s Prowling Blue Grosbeak, 2018.


Austin Book Arts Center is On the Move

Amanda Stevenson with century-old, pedal-propelled printing press still in use. (author photos)

I recently visited the Austin Book Arts Center to discuss the organization and its upcoming fundraiser with Executive Director Amanda Stevenson and Board Chair Mary Baughman.

The nonprofit center exists to “engage people in the art of the book,” Baughman said, detailing that this encompasses a myriad of subjects, including printing, bookbinding, papermaking, typography, book history, and book design.

The center offers classes for kids and adults — 40 in all, this fall. Some of their upcoming classes include making kids’ board books, book repair, making an artist’s portfolio, and Japanese bookbinding. The center also rents out studio space for people who want to use the equipment to work on their own projects.

This Thursday, September 13, the center will hold a kickoff event for their fundraising campaign to fund their move to a new location. The building that currently houses the center, Flatbed Press on East MLK Blvd., has been sold and all the tenants are obliged to move out.

“Having our start here [at Flatbed] was very advantageous,” Stevenson said.

Baughman shows me one of the many cases of type.

Baughman agreed. “We love it here, being part of the group.” The Flatbed building houses several art galleries, in addition to the Austin Book Arts Center.

Born in 2015, the nonprofit grew out of the Austin Book Workers organization that had been around since the 1980s. When it became ABAC in 2015, it rented studio space for the first time and acquired non-profit status from the IRS.

The center’s administrative staff are volunteers, while their course teachers — highly accomplished artisans — are paid.

The classes make use of the center’s multiple printing presses, cases of type, and machines from various eras, most donated and some purchased. Machines of every description are shoehorned into every corner and hallway of the center’s 800 square feet.

The group would like to find a larger space, perhaps 1,000 square feet, Baughman said. “We’d love it if somebody would rent us space for a non-profit at below market rate,” she added.

This Thursday’s fundraiser, dubbed “I Saw the Future,” runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at Austin’s Central Library. Tickets range from $50 upward.

The event will feature Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, the two UT psychology professors behind KUT’s weekly program “Two Guys on Your Head.” The duo will talk about “Your Brain on Books.” Additionally, the event will feature music from harpist Delaine Fedson Leonard, a silent auction, and a cash bar.

‘Ancestral Modern’ Dazzles at the Blanton

Above: Tjamu Tjamu, 2004, by Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles. (Image on homepage: Minyma Kutjarra or Two Sisters Creation Story, 2009, by Maringka Baker.)

There’s about a week and a half left to check out the gorgeous show of Australian Aboriginal art at The Blanton Museum of Art. The show, Ancestral Modern, closes on September 9.

The exhibit’s name is apt. The art in this show — dozens of paintings and sculptures from the Kaplan and Levi Collection — is relatively recent, going back only several decades. But many of the designs and themes are based on more than a millennium of Aboriginal art, though, from groups all over Australia.

Mina Mina Jukurrpa or Mina Mina Dreaming, 1999, by Yuendumu Women’s Collaborative

I was first introduced to Aboriginal art through an online class that I’ve mentioned before, Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender. From Australia’s University of Melbourne, it dealt mainly with Western art, but right at the end delved in the fascinating, and to me, completely new, realm of Aboriginal art. I was amazed by the shapes and colors and vibrancy of these pieces, mainly created by the female elders of different cultures in remote areas of Australia.

Visiting this show at the Blanton was my first chance to see Aboriginal art in person, and it did not disappoint. The paintings are brimming over with life and motion. This is the kind of art I’d want to see when I needed cheering up.

Wati Kutjara or Two Men Story, 2003, by Spinifex Men’s Collaborative

The show features sculptures as well, but these did not speak to me quite as much.

There are two more guided tours left of Ancestral Modern, on September 2 and 9. I recommend you try to get to this show if you can.

Art Goes ‘From the Streets to the Library’

Above work by Mark Abelli/Art from the Streets (2017). The featured image on the homepage is by June Yan/Art from the Streets (2017). (author photos)

A new show called ‘Art from the Streets to the Library’ opened Wednesday night at the second-floor gallery of Austin’s new Central Library.

Mixed media by Cathy Carr Hayes/Art from the Streets (2017)

The show features about 50 works from more than 30 artists in the Art from the Streets program, an Austin non-profit that provides studio space and materials to Austin’s homeless population.

Works in the show run the gamut from representational to abstract. Most are works on paper, but some are on canvas. All are for sale — prices range from $35 to $1,200. This show is a great opportunity to purchase some beautiful pieces for a bargain, while helping a homeless artist at the same time. What could be better?

According to their mission statement, Art from the Streets strives to “provide a safe and encouraging environment in which the positive spirit and creativity of homeless and formerly homeless people is nurtured through artistic expression, and to provide with them a source of pride and income through the sale of their work.” This is something that I can believe in.

Art from the Streets has multiple shows around town throughout the year, but their largest show happens during the holiday season. On December 1, thousands of works will be for sale at the organization’s Annual Show and Sale at the Austin Convention Center. You can also buy both original works and prints at their website.

By Kevin Lane/Art from the Streets (2017)

Most of the funds raised through the sale of artworks go directly to the artists; the remainder are used to purchase supplies and fund the continuation of the program.

Troy Campa, director of CAMIBAart Gallery, curated the current show. Campa serves on Art from the Streets’ board of directors.

The show continues through October 14 at Austin’s Central Library.




‘Surface’ at Women & Their Work

Surrender (2018), by Meg Aubrey. (Author photos.)

A deceptively simple show of works by Meg Aubrey is on now at Women & Their Work. The show features paintings of women that I recognize. Women in jeans and sunglasses,  women drinking coffee from to-go cups, women carrying iPhones, women driving to wherever they have to get to. This is me, and my friends.

Ottoman #2 (2018), by Meg Aubrey

But look at bit deeper. The images are drenched in opaque hot pinks, aqua blues, apple greens. Is this real life, or a story? It’s a bit of both. It’s a commentary on real life — mine and yours. And the story of our lives, as we present to our “publics,” is a sugar-coated fantasy. Some of us do it on Facebook, but Aubrey puts it on canvas, on a gallery wall to make us think harder. She’s challenging us to see ourselves.

Aubrey is an art professor at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her show is up through September 6. I hope you go check it out. Perhaps, like me, you’ll see yourself.

Rear View (2018), by Meg Aubrey