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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin arts
Wayne Alan Brenner's Top 10 Arts-Related Program Activities of 2016
Wayne Alan Brenner's Top 10 Arts-Related Program Activities of 2016
Uncommon combinations – dance with horses, music with robots, drama with a Tesla coil – made the year unforgettable

Wayne Alan Brenner, Dec. 30, 2016

Road to Freedom
Road to Freedom
The Cost of Art III: How the Fusebox Festival liberated itself from charging admission

Katherine Catmull, July 25, 2014

More Top 10
One for the Books
Jay Trachtenberg's Top Reads of 2015
A Brief History of Seven Killings leads a list of works exploring crime and politics abroad and at home

Jay Trachtenberg, Jan. 1, 2016

One for the Books
Joe O'Connell's Top Reads of 2015
Paradise Sky and The Best I Recall head a list of stellar Lone Star books

Joe O'Connell, Jan. 1, 2016

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


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

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle