East Austin Studio Tour
When local artists open their spaces, follow the crowd
It isn't that I figured I'd be able to cruise right up to the door of the Pump Project Art Complex and nab a parking spot, but I totally didn't expect to have to drive a block, round a corner, and go two more blocks before I spotted even one space in which to nose my Volvo. But I did, and thus learned firsthand that the East Austin Studio Tour's phenomenal expansion wasn't limited to the artists and venues taking part. The EAST audience had bloomed right along with them.
Inside Pump Project, I joined a steady stream of bodies moving in and out of the cozy rooms holding the paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works of the 18 artists exhibiting there, and I quickly grew accustomed to craning my head around this person's head or that person's shoulders to study a work and having my view momentarily interrupted by fellow patrons sliding by to gape at another creative wonder in the space. At Big Medium, the Bolm Road hive where EAST's founders keep their studios, along with more than a dozen other artists, it was even more of a crush, and I sometimes had to wait a few minutes for an artist's space to empty before there was room for me to squeeze in.
All this might sound like I'm building up to what a miserable experience this was and how EAST has crossed Yogi Berra's threshold for overpopularity. ("Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.") Not at all. While I generally don't love being in huge masses of people, the throngs enhanced EAST for me. They brought along a palpable energy and curiosity about the art being made in their hometown and engaged with the artists so openly and enthusiastically that I was buoyed with hopefulness for the state of the arts. EAST shows the great extent to which Austinites take an active interest in art and want to connect with it. And I believe we can never get too much of that.
The 2012 East Austin Studio Tour takes place Nov. 10-18 at more than 175 studios and exhibition spaces across the Eastside. For more information, visit www.eastaustinstudiotour.com.