By now, Austin has been the subject of so many stories in national magazines that you'd figure it was no longer news when another one hits the stands. Maybe it isn't, but as Charles Dee Mitchell points out in the introduction to his "Report From Austin" in the December issue of Art in America, most of the associations people outside the city make with Austin involve music, film, or high tech. And when those glossies give over some space to gush about our li'l city on the Colorado River, those are the areas that tend to get the ink. For an established national mag to devote 6½ full pages solely to Austin's visual arts scene is pretty much unheard of. That's, well, news.
Mitchell, who writes regularly for the Dallas Morning News and the online arts journal Glasstire as well as Art in America, makes the case that the city's visual arts community may be finally deserving of its own share of the limelight. He points to the completion of the Blanton Museum of Art and plans for Arthouse and the Austin Museum of Art as evidence of growth on the museum side and to the longevity of nonprofits such as Mexic-Arte and Women & Their Work alongside the bustle of activity on the gallery scene and the Eastside as signs of health. You won't find a lot of passion for Austin art in the story, but you'll get a ton of history and information about the city's major institutions and some reasonable reporting on developments of the scene overall, plus, naturally, a bounty of art.
Inevitably, some key parts of the story get left out – what, no East Austin Studio Tour? – and some material is already out of date – Volitant Gallery, which comes in for some praise, has closed, and Mel Ziegler has left the art department at the University of Texas – but Mitchell has done the city's visual arts scene a service by taking the broad view and doing his homework. It's a truly valuable overview of the scene.
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