Cloud Tree Studios & Gallery Expands in Time for Austin Studio Tour

Fostering community remains central to the artistic mission

courtesy of Brian David Johnson

While its exterior could be confused for a plane hangar, Cloud Tree Studios & Gallery is the nerve center for a creative community. The space encourages collaboration, and its visitors enjoy an open-door policy. The person responsible for that open door, co-owner Brian David Johnson, has worked over the years to develop an environment that is eclectic and ever-changing.

Inside, the walls showcase artists of all specialties, and the communal kitchen occasionally transforms into a home for dinner parties. Outside, in the backyard where he is to be found most days, Johnson has collected a spread of objects and materials used in many of his own installations. In its entirety, the space makes an impressive introduction that will only become more impressive with the addition of Cloud Tree Auxiliary, a new sister space next door that will open to the public just in time for the Austin Studio Tour in November. Totally identical in shape but painted shades of blue, the Auxiliary will be a culmination of work from Johnson and co-owner Aaron Taddiken. There will be a grand opening party on November 10 with live music, drinks, and, as per usual, all the art they can fit.

It's been a year of big development for Cloud Tree, as over the last few months 21 artists came together for the Summer Salon Series. A kind of open-mic exhibit, it was a first for the gallery, a way to utilize the space for something fresh across the slower days of summer. Johnson put out the open-call for emerging artists online, and available spots for both the July and August series filled up within hours – with some artists even holding spots on a waitlist.

The structure of the Salon Series was a perfect match for local artist Rewon Shimray, who is always looking to connect to other artists in the community. While Shimray has previously worked with other galleries, the Salon Series was the first time she saw her collection presented in this way. "I'm supposed to be the master of my own work, but in actuality, talking with other artists has helped me to learn more about myself." Shimray reflected that conversations like those are how she came to call herself an autobiographical painter – a descriptor which is the inspiration behind her most recent self-portrait collection.

"The culture of Austin funds social events heavily but not necessarily artist-focused discussion events," Shimray said. As part of a continued effort to fill this gap, Cloud Tree is continuing to shake up the way they normally showcase artists. Similar to the Salon Series, Johnson says that he and his team are getting creative with what interactive community events will look like in the coming year.

Meena Matai, one of the artists featured in August, agrees that Cloud Tree Studios succeeds in challenging its guests to interact with the artist's story, not just one piece. She said she had wanted to show her work at Cloud Tree for several years, and while her career continued to accelerate, she was always drawn to the energy the studio produces. "When you walk into the gallery you don't have to sit up straight and ask for permission to take a breath, it all just feels accessible – like it's there for everyone."

Cloud Tree Studios & Gallery
Mon.-Sat., noon-5pm; Sun., by appointment
3411 E. Fifth
Austin Studio Tour 2023
Nov. 4-5, 11-12, 18-19

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