EAST: 2019

Over two weekends in mid-November, the public was invited to visit art studios and galleries during the annual East Austin Studio Tour. EAST covers a huge geographic area east of I-35 and west of I-183. According to the organizer, non-profit Big Medium, over 60,000 people visited a record 807 artists this year.

As usual, I started my EAST experience at Canopy, a large complex of art studios on Springdale Road. I arrived early since parking can be challenging, plus I wanted to snag a tour booklet. The EAST app is helpful, but it’s best to have a physical map to find nearby stops.

I was happy to discover that the EAST Group Exhibition was conveniently displayed at Canopy this year. The small samples from each EAST artist often spur me to visit new locations or remind me to check on favorite artists from previous years.

Eight green trailers were parked around a wood deck on a corner of the Canopy property. These portable “tiny shops” displayed a variety of artworks, including screen-printed T-shirts and handmade furniture.

Sixteen artists—all women!—had displays inside The Cathedral. This former Missionary Baptist church was remodeled and has recently opened as a co-working space for creatives. It’s located in the middle of what used to be a traditionally black neighborhood between MLK and 12th Streets. Like much of East Austin, this neighborhood is mostly gentrified now.

On Sunday, I visited Cement Loop, another artist enclave on Berkman Drive. I spoke with several artists who said they liked working in this repurposed space at the end of an old strip mall.

For those who don’t know, EAST really is a big deal here in Austin. (The West Austin spring tour, WEST, is not nearly as large.) I came across several TV and video tapings during my travels.

On the second EAST weekend, I stopped by a favorite location from previous years, Imagine Art. Two glassblowers and I had a lively conversation about gentrification in Austin and techniques for making glass marbles.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Springdale General. This complex was brand-new and somewhat empty for last year’s EAST, but most spaces are leased now. During previous EASTs, I had visited Ioana Handcrafted Books and The Paper + Craft Pantry in other locations, but both have relocated here.

Eli Halpin, a well-known Austin artist, has a studio and gallery in Springdale General. She also seems to be gaining a national reputation: I had spotted notebooks covered with her whimsical animals in a Colorado gift store over the summer.

I congratulated the employees of Whitebox (a design company) on their creative re-imagining of the ubiquitous red EAST signs.

My final EAST stop was a food-themed group exhibition called Texas Toast. By far, the most unusual artwork here was a piece of burnt toast attached to the wall. I do not know what this toast was made of (it sure looked like bread), but I do know that the selling price was $200. This exhibition continues through December 21 at Springdale General. I may return just to see if the burnt toast has been sold.

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