By Wes Eichenwald | November 17, 2014 | Culture
The anticipated annual art showcase takes over east Austin for two November weekends.
“The East Austin Studio Tour really fits the values people have in Austin,” participating artist Jennifer Chenoweth says of the 13th annual event, returning to Austin on November 15, 16, 22, and 23. Over 400 artists will showcase their work in more than 150 studios, homes, and galleries east of I-35, from 11 am to 6 pm each day. “People want something that’s authentic and accessible,” Chenoweth continues, “and to have a cool experience—to meet people and connect. E.A.S.T. gives you that.”
Seasoned tour vets know a few basics: Wear comfortable walking shoes. Consider touring around by bicycle. Bring enough cash to purchase that must-have objet on the spot, before anyone else can lay claim to it. Most of all, be social and have fun—shopping, even window-shopping, doesn’t get much more community-oriented and enjoyable.
Since you don’t want to waste a minute, we’ve picked five can’t-miss stops where you can encounter established artists and innovative newcomers alike in settings as far from a sterile gallery as one can get.
Blue Genie is known for specializing in “the obscure intersection between art and technology as makers of spectacular things big and small.” The crew designs and builds everything from giant murals and signs to playscapes and public statues. And if you thought the Pinewood Derby was just something that Cub Scouts did, plan to attend Blue Genie’s third annual Danger Derby on the 22nd to see an amped-up, adult, almost-anything-goes version of the handmade toy-car race, featuring a 100-foot-long, 20-foot-tall racetrack “peppered with a myriad of extreme dangers.” Pick up your car kit at Blue Genie the weekend before for $20 (details at dangerderby.com). A $50 VIP ticket gets you a balcony seat with private bar and catering by Gourmands Neighborhood Pub. There’s also a simultaneous Invitational Art Show. 916 Springdale Road, Building 4, 512-444-6655
This is E.A.S.T. central and the tour’s most popular stop. Formerly home to a Goodwill outlet, Canopy is a creative complex of converted warehouses hosting about 50 artists’ studios. It’s located in the same five-building compound as Blue Genie, the headquarters of Big Medium (which manages the space), and, since mid-September, a Japanese-flavored café, Sa-Tén (run by the people who brought you Komé and East Side King).
All studios are open and hosting various events during E.A.S.T., with food trucks, bands, and other special events likely (in the planning stages at press time).
“It’s helpful to be in a complex with other artists, because they tend to draw bigger crowds than if you’re by yourself,” says photographer Elizabeth Chiles, who moved in earlier this year. “I’m looking forward to Canopy becoming even more of a pedestrian destination, where people can spend some time on a regular basis.” 916 Springdale Road, 512-939-6665
Jennifer Chenoweth works in painting, drawing, sculpture, and mixed media, but she’s also renowned as a connector and community builder among Austin’s artist community. Perhaps no one else does E.A.S.T. with such enthusiasm and panache. Every year, Chenoweth invites guest artists—eight this season—to set up exhibit space in her home, while she shows her work in her studio and offers up homemade posole, kegs of beer, and other refreshments to visitors. “I don’t curate the art; it’s more the artist,” she says. “It’s much less intimidating than an art gallery for most people. It’s incredibly informal because it’s like a big, free community house party.” Among her guest artists this year are documentary filmmaker Aaron Weiss, performance artist Katelena Hernandez Cowles, painter Jason Webb, and sculptor-collagist Calder Kamin. “Diversity is what makes life interesting,” Chenoweth says. 1200 E. 2nd St., 512-482-0747
A newcomer to the East Side, grayDUCK was founded by director Jill Schroeder in a rented space in South Austin in 2010. Last year Schroeder bought and extensively renovated a century-old house, opening the new, 1,500-square-foot gallery in May. “I’ve always loved East Austin,” she says. “I see it as the heart of the arts community. I wanted the gallery to be a part of that.” No special events are planned at grayDUCK during E.A.S.T., but the gallery’s current show, “Heirloom,” running through November 23, is well worth a look. Two artists, Adrian Landon Brooks and Megan Kimber, explore visions out of the past through mixed-media paintings—Brooks via folk and religious art and altered photographs, Kimber via illustrations of children and animals out of dreams and fantasies. 2213 E. Cesar Chavez St., 512-826-5334
Dating back to the end of the 20th century, Splinter Group, a five-man collective sharing a 4,000-square-foot workspace, is one of the East Side’s more established arts and crafts shops. Mark MaÄek crafts custom wood furniture, Hawkeye Glenn is a metalsmith, Chris Levack is a sculptor, Andy St. Martin paints, and Brian David Johnson works in wood and other media. If the artists have a common ground, it’s a tendency to do things on a big, impressive scale. Splinter Group doesn’t have a website, and St. Martin says nothing special is planned for E.A.S.T. except “just showing off,” but their epic works should be enough of a show for any lover of the arts and expert craftsmanship. 405 Springdale Road/4709 E. 5th St., 512-385-7220
photography courtesy of andy st. martin (splinter). opposite page: photography courtesy of blue genie (workspace); Jon windham (kimber); Jeff harris photography (grayduck)