The birds are out, the weather isn't yet scorching, and the city is coming alive after some damp and dreary winter days, which can only mean that we're overdue for some outdoor festivities. Art Alliance Austin's annual Art City Austin will be taking place this Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13, turning the Downtown blocks of Cesar Chavez between Guadalupe and Lamar into a huge open-air gallery for more than 100 artists from around the country. In addition to the visual riches, the event will offer treasures for the ear – KUTX 98.9FM will be presenting live music from the likes of Elizabeth McQueen, Nakia, Danny Malone, Erin Ivey, and Possessed by Paul James – and for the taste buds – food trailers that include Taco Baby, Coolhaus, Crepe Crazy, and Chi'lantro; and craft brews from Infamous Beer. For the festival's younger attendees, the children's area will offer the chance to get creative.
Art City Austin has a long history dating back to 1950, when it was known as Fiesta and called Laguna Gloria home. It's been kicking ever since, and though the focus has always been to bring new eyes to local and now national artists, the organization has inevitably shifted and swayed with the times. This year starts another new chapter in Art Alliance Austin history. With the departure of Meredith Powell as executive director and Kim Eckert and Jimmy Navarro co-chairing Art City Austin, 2014 might become a year of reinvention – at least, we hope to see it as one for the organization. The overload of festivals Downtown now makes it more important than ever for Art City Austin to distinguish itself from the pack if it hopes to create an impact beyond that of a passing activity for the Second Street District. And with the outlets for contemporary art shrinking, as privately owned galleries like Tiny Park are forced to close their doors, it's incumbent upon those remaining to take extra care to elevate the level of art Austin is known for. As the Austin Museum of Art has matured into the Contemporary, and galleries (see Co-Lab, Pump Project, and MASS) have taken new steps to bring current contemporary and experimental art to Austin, other nonprofits in the visual arts need to undertake the same kind of identity shift.
We're all for taking the kids/loved ones/dogs outside for an afternoon of fun with an artistic twist. The music, dancing, kicking back with a beer, and casual atmosphere at Art City Austin are probably what attracted you to the city in the first place. Still, we'd love to see Arts Alliance Austin grow beyond simple civil engagement and take a stance on the artists and, ultimately, the art that deserve to be noticed.
Art City Austin will take place April 12 & 13, Saturday, 10am-8pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm, West Cesar Chavez Street between Guadalupe and Lamar. For more information, visit www.artallianceaustin.org.
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