Rite of Spring: The Austin Fine Arts Festival

Local sculptor Damian Priour talks about being Featured Artist for one of the city's rites of spring: the Austin Fine Arts Festival.

Rite of Spring: The Austin Fine Arts Festival

For years, you could be sure it was spring in Austin by three reliable signs: bluebonnets sprouting along the Interstate; shorts blooming throughout the Forty Acres; and Fiesta popping up on the grounds of Laguna Gloria. Back before festivals spread all over the calendar like hydrilla, the weekend celebration of art at the museum's home on the shores of Lake Austin was a civic rite of spring.

Well, the Fiesta name may have been retired in favor of Austin Fine Arts Festival and Laguna Gloria left behind for Republic Square and the site of AMOA's future downtown home, but the event itself is every bit the springtime tradition it's always been, with thousands of art lovers cruising booths full of more art than you can shake a brush at, plus a huge art auction, live music, and savory treats from local eateries.

For the 52nd edition of the festival -- benefiting AMOA's educational programs and the Laguna Gloria Renewal Project -- organizers have lined up local hero Damian Priour to be the Featured Artist. The fifth-generation Texan had been pursued by Festival organizers for a few years, but scheduling conflicts prevented Priour from accepting. No wonder; he's been a busy artist of late, creating two major projects in Austin, one for the Texas Sculpture Garden in Frisco, Texas, plus the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font for the Emmaus Church at Lakeway. He has contributed one of his signature Texas limestone and glass sculptures for sale in Sunday's auction. The Chronicle checked in with him to find out how he feels about being honored at this year's festival.

Damian Priour: I'm really happy to do it to help out the guild and the museum.

Austin Chronicle: Why is it important to you?

DP: Well, I've been an advocate of the artists in Austin for a long time and the museum for a long time. Every contribution that I can make, I like to make. My wife and I contribute a lot to the Austin Museum of Art on different levels, whether it's in-kind or donating money or serving on committees. I'm donating a pretty significant piece to be auctioned off. My purpose is hopefully to draw some attention to the festival and raise some money for the museum.

AC: How is it being the Featured Artist?

DP: They have been so thoughtful and detail-oriented, and they've made me feel good and they threw a hell of a party the other night. It was on the site where my 15-foot-tall sculpture is over on Barton Skyway, so it was the perfect setting, and they gave me an opportunity to show slides and talk about the work, and it was wonderful. It's been a really positive thing, and that's what I want to carry through to the whole festival. It'll be nice to have new people who haven't been exposed to my work before. That's really wonderful, to have people come up and say, "I really like your work. I've never seen it before," and start a dialogue that way.

The Austin Festival of Fine Arts will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 13 & 14, 11am-6pm, at Fifth and Guadalupe. $35 adults, $10 ages 6-12, free for ages 5 and under.

Music schedule for the festival is:

Saturday: 12:30-2pm, Aztex; 2:30-3:45pm, Marcia Ball; 4-5:30pm, Brave Combo

Sunday: 12:30-2pm, Joe McDermott; 2:30-3:45pm, Alvin Crow; 4-5:30pm, Tish Hinojosa

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