Identity Shift

Austin's arts community spent 2013 making changes for a changing city

The Contemporary Austin and the Thinkery – two names that pretty much tell the story of the Austin arts scene in 2013.

Both belong to cultural institutions of longstanding that rechristened themselves to reflect major changes in their organizational lives. The former is rooted in the 2011 merger of Arthouse and the Austin Museum of Art, which felt the hyphenated mash-up of their old monikers didn't communicate enough of its mission; hence, the Contemporary Austin, which describes its focus on current art. The latter is tied to the Austin Children's Museum's move to new digs in Mueller; the 30-year-old museum felt its new resources and emphasis on "STEAM" learning (science, technology, engineering, art, math) made it an opportune time to rebrand with a fresh, somewhat whimsical spin.

In both instances, the organizations chose to reinvent themselves for a changing city, and that appeared to be the dominant impulse across Austin's cultural community all year. It showed up in new facilities like Canopy, which took the practice of carving artists' studios out of warehouses in a new, less-DIY direction, and in old traditions like Ballet Austin's Nutcracker, which received fresh costumes and set designs for the first time in 15 years. Even the year's biggest controversy – the firing of Emily Marks and John Riedie at Scottish Rite Theater – came as the former staffers were trying to program SRT for the 21st century.

Coupled with these shifts in identity was a new surge in ambitious, large-scale projects – Women & Their Work's Thirst, Forklift Danceworks' PowerUP, Physical Plant's Adam Sultan, line upon line percussion's Erewhon, etc. – that signals more change in the air, big change.

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Austin arts, Top 10, The Contemporary Austin, The Thinkery, Austin Museum of Art, Arthouse, Canopy, Big Medium, Austin Children's Museum, Ballet Austin, Scottish Rite Theatre, Women & Their Work, Forklift Danceworks, Physical Plant, line upon line percussion

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