The Austin Chronicle

Five Things to Do Outdoors This Christmas Weekend

Get into the big outside this holiday season

By Wayne Alan Brenner, December 24, 2021, Arts

Because we can only stay inside – whether staring at a screen or a printed page, whether accomplishing needed tasks or just puttering about – for a certain amount of time (YMMV) before we feel the inexorable pull of that really big room with the blue ceiling. And so, when we do go out, why not make it intentional and rewarding? Why not spark a little IRL and AFK joy into our funky, beating hearts while we're still this side of the grave? Here are five possibilities for your holiday consideration.

Landmarks: Self-Guided Walking Tour

This public program from UT presents art that's broadly accessible and free to all. More than 50 modern and contemporary works are located around the 433-acre campus, the works chosen by a team of specialists and community stakeholders, providing myriad opportunities for discovery. "By creating equitable pathways to meaningful engagement, Landmarks reflects the complex audiences we serve and celebrates our differences." And you know how people say, "There's an app for that," right? Well, there's an app for this, too, allowing you to tour whenever you wish and at your own pace.

Dimension Sculpture Park

We can't mention this Eastside place often enough, because it's such a respite from the daily grind – even if the daily grind is no more challenging than smoking weed and bingeing ASMR videos on YouTube. Instigated by the team behind Dimension Gallery (located right across the street), this small, verdant park is so well situated and well kept that it'd be a treat even without the unique, outsized sculptures on display. But, oh, those sculptures! Created by some of Austin's finest object makers, they're cynosures for beauty-seeking eyes, nodes of aesthetic wonder within the welcoming scape – and, pro tip, they're also the perfect silent companions for a picnic among the leaves or upon that lawn. 979 Springdale.


Austin's Odditree Society, founded in 2013 by artist and architect Ann Armstrong and urban forester Angela Hanson, is dedicated to the admiration of unusual trees – trees that have, often due to external conditions, deviated from the norm in interesting ways. (You know: like quite a few Austinites.) The society regularly publishes print and digital media, offers workshops and other events – and, more to the point here, they provide a handy field guide with a map revealing some of the oddest tree inhabitants around our burgeoning burg. Suggestion: This mild weather's great for lacing up those hiking boots and, ah, getting your Lorax on.

Northern-Southern: No Outlet and Left In Leaves

One of Northern-Southern gallery's responses to the pandemic shutdown of 2020 was to move exhibitions outdoors, featuring a range of local artists creating site-specific objects and situations for pedestrians and wanderers to stumble upon. You could have, quite by accident, come face to face with human-made beauty all over town; but the gallery also offered maps for those wishing to seek out the scattered installations. Now it's been months since the "No Outlet" and "Left in Leaves" projects officially closed, but we know there are still a few pieces left out there, lurking like jewels among the dead ends and alleyways and so on – and we reckon it'd be a fine time for an urban explorer to follow those maps and see just how much of the art still exists.

Just Go Outside

Seriously. Wherever you are when you're reading this – unless you're already outside, clever clogs – just go to the nearest exit and step on through. Move beyond the threshold and let the door close and notice, really notice, how you are: suddenly unsheltered. The air on your skin, cooler or warmer than your body's temperature. The world's impromptu and omnidirectional symphony in your ears. A flood of electromagnetic waves bombarding your photoreceptors with what you recognize as light and shadow and color. Look around. Look up, especially. How does the sky keep going like that, until it turns to interplanetary space, and then interstellar space, and then it continues going and going and, possibly, never stops? Taste infinity on your tongue for a moment, friend. Ponder the miracle of existence. That's art, too. That's the art of living.

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