Austin artist, musician Steve Parker wins $15K Tito’s Prize

Big Medium, which marshals some of the city’s most precious visual art resources, could not have chosen a more timely winner for its $15,000 Tito’s Prize.

Artist and musician Steve Parker has won the 2018 Tito’s Prize. Contributed

A musician, artist and curator, Steve Parker has been involved in some of the city’s outstanding collaborative projects, beloved by the public as well as critics and colleagues, including work on the city’s much-discussed grackle population.

The prize comes with a solo exhibition at the Big Medium Gallery, Oct. 19-Nov. 18, as well as a key spot on the East Austin Studio Tour (Nov. 10-18).

Parker’s public art is embraced by just about everyone. Contributed by Philip Rogers.

RELATED: Zack Ingram won 2017 Tito’s Prize.

Three judges — Andrea MellardDennis Nance and Veronica Roberts, all arts insiders — joined voices in picking Parker.

Parker is also part of the Austin community fascinated by grackles. Contributed

RELATED: Sex, race and grackles — Fusebox Festival covers many moods.

“Parker exemplifies the way contemporary artists push beyond the boundaries of genres and media towards the pursuit of creativity,” Mellard says. “His strong artistic practice in new music performance, in sites ranging from parks to parking lots, has expanded into public sound sculptures and more recently installations. His generous approach brings together groups of trained performers and even invites curious members of the public to participate in his scores.”

SOMEWHAT RELATED: More Grackle Week 2018.

Get an early look at what’s coming up at Creek Show 2018

Creek Show, the annual procession of light art staged by the Waller Creek Conservancy, turned a corner of sorts last year.

What started as mostly elegant minimalist efforts along downtown Austin’s eastern waterway went maximalist in 2017 with masses of pink flags for “Night Garden” by Daniel Woodroffe (lead), Kim Harding, Francisco Rosales, Ethan Primm and Kevin Sullivan.

UPDATE: Credits for “Night Garden” appeared incorrectly in a previous version of this post.

“Night Garden” was a hit for the Creek Show in 2017. Created by Daniel Woodroffe (lead), Kim Harding, Francisco Rosales, Ethan Primm and Kevin Sullivan. Contributed by DWG via creekshow.com

The designs for year five — the free event will be Nov. 9-17 — were recently announced and promise to continue the large-scale experience. In 2017, more than 20,000 people attended Creek Show, sampling the kind of attractions planned for a transformed Waller Creek. For 2018, Creek Show will be in a different section of Waller Creek — between Ninth and 11th streets — and include Symphony Square, where the “Creek Show Lounge” will be located.

Here’s a look at early renderings of what’s planned for 2018, along with the teams behind the designs:

“Tentsion”

By Perkins + Will

Chet Morgan, Assoc. (lead)

Jenny Adair

Caitlin Admire

Aaron Manns

Emilie Ogburn

Ellen Saathoff

Paul Ward

“Ambedo βeta”

By Polis

Daniel Goodwin (lead)

Brianna Graves

Olivia Nguyen

Bruce Wilcoxon

“Parabolus”

By aod

Jose Roberto Corea (lead)

Courtney Jones Burton

Gretchen Leigh Du Pré

Jeff Fletcher

“Light Lines”

By Campbell Landscape Architecture + Tab Labs

Cameron Campbell (lead)

Bill Baird

Taurin Barrera

Stuart Campbell

Jenny Janis

Viddhi Jhaveri

“La Noria”

By Drophouse Design

Christian Klein (lead)

Matt Satter

Christy Taylor

“Urban Scrim”

By Lemmo Architecture and Design

Ryan Lemmo, (lead)

Stephanie Lemmo, Assoc. (lead)

Jonathan Butler

Julia Martinelli

 

 

 

Setting the highest standards for the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria

Etherial location. Elegant crowd. Exquisite cuisine. Excellent art.

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The S.S. Hangover at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

For the past five years, the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria has benefited the Contemporary Austin. Hosts expertly employ the arboreal setting on the grounds of the Clara Driscoll villa to create an elevated atmosphere at dusk and into the evening. This year, that effort included the passage of the S.S. Hangover through the lagoon with members of an Austin music collective playing a dirge-like piece.

Visual and musical artists do love a bit of theater!

Guests were in no hurry to pass up cocktails at key points in and around the villa, but the seated dinner took place under tents on the front lawn. Happily, I was placed next to designers Lydia G. Cook and Geoff Fritz from the Cambridge, Mass. firm of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture. They helped explained the company’s master plan for the Contemporary’s Marcus Sculpture Park, including connectivity to nearby Mayfield Park.

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Scene from the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

RELATED: Imagine a new welcome at Laguna Gloria.

The modest but tasty dinner arrived courtesy of restaurateur Tyson Cole along with chefs Ed Sura of Uchiko and Joe Zoccoli of Uchi. (Note to other Austin charity hosts: You don’t need a big slab of animal protein to satisfy.) The evening climaxed with an unusually civilized live auction featuring work by artists close to projects at the Contemporary.

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Dr. Sam Rumi and Dr. Meena Vendal at the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

“When all was said and done, we raised more than $500,000 in the live and silent auctions,” reported the museum’s spokeswoman, Nicole Chism Griffin. “One hundred percent of these funds will go to support exhibitions at both of our locations. We also raised  $325,0000 toward the purchase of Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Tree Trunk.” Our goal had been $100,000 for the evening! This $325,000 will go toward fulfilling the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation’s challenge grant of $500,000 (for the purchase).”

I hear that some guests danced till the wee hours.

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Andre Revilla and Rachel Imwalle at the Art Dinner at Laguna Gloria. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Symphony

Some notes on the Austin Symphony‘s recent concert at the Long Center.

• One way to fill a house: Schedule Beethoven‘s Fifth. It is the duty of artistic leaders such as Peter Bay to expand tastes and lead audiences in new directions. Still, the Fifth — if well done, and it was — satisfies and enlightens with each fresh interpretation. It comes with the added benefit of a standing-room-only crowd.

RELATED: Why I adore the Austin Symphony.

• I’ve tried to sit in every part of the Long Center house since it opened 10 years ago. Row 4 on the orchestra level was not the right place to take in the concert’s opening piece, Michael Torke‘s “Bright Blue Music.” All I heard was the lower range of the strings and all I saw were the polished shoes of the musicians.

• Turns out the same seat was ideal for Leonard Bernstein‘s “Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion.” Here, only the strings really mattered and they came together beautifully in conjunction with violinist Vadim Gluzman‘s playful then profound solo turn. Booked as part of the “Bernstein at 100” celebration, this near-concerto is a gem to revive more often.

• Bay has proven time and again that he can take epic forms to ever higher heights. Last season, it was Mahler‘s Sixth, an almost brutally difficult symphony to get right. With Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, the challenge instead is overfamiliarity. Bay and his always advancing ensemble treated the first movement with rhythmic clarity, the second with architectural balance, the third with taut force and the final movement with bristling brilliance.

Elgin’s Margo Sawyer wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Margo Sawyer, the Elgin-based artist whose art intersects sculpture and architecture, has won a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced 173 fellowships (including two joint fellowships) in arts and sciences for 2018. This honor comes with up to $45,000 to support one of the winners’ future projects.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship would allow me time and resources to cultivate designs of spaces transcendent,” Sawyer says. “Public places that foster contemplation.”

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Artist Margo Sawyer. Contributed

RELATED: Contemporary Austin collection to Blanton Museum.

Sawyer, 59, has been on the University of Texas art faculty for 30 years. For decades, she has transformed old brick structures in Elgin into multi-use arts spaces.

She is the niece of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas and her father was one of the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps in the 1950s. He met her British mother in Accra, Ghana. Her grandfather founded the NAACP in Topeka, Kan. and helped initiate the legal action that became Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation.

Sawyer grew up the  U.S., U.K. and Cameroon. In 1973, her mother took her to Egypt during the Yom Kippur War.

“I was about 15 and it was an experience that made me the sculptor I am today,” Sawyer says. “We were the first and only 17 tourists allowed in the country. I spent 30 minutes alone in Tutankhamun’s tomb — an obsession as with many people ever since. The experience at Abu Simbel, where the monuments are carved into the living rock, a union of sculpture, architecture and painting united, has been my modus operandi all my life.”

Margo floor up
From Margo Sawyer’s recent solo show, ‘Reflect: Reflector,’ at the San Antonio Play House.

She is currently working on a glass colored spiral immersive sculpture for the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo.

“The viewer will be enveloped in a pool of color,” Sawyer says. “I just completed windows for a private chapel and also I’m working on a commission for the University of Houston all with hand-painted glass being made with Franz Mayer of Munich, who did the exquisite windows for Ellsworth Kelly‘s ‘Austin.”’

RELATED: Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ worships light.

Sawyer realizes this is a big turning point during a long career of many achievements, including many works placed in private homes, museum collections and public spaces, along with wide recognition in the Austin arts community, including the Austin Critics Table designation as 2015 Artist of the Year.

“This is an amazing moment for me,” she says. “I have been making sculpture since I was 14 years old, and am honored that I have been a sculptor throughout my life. This year feels transformative and the recognition is monumental, a testament to the personal commitment and belief in the vision I have created.”

 

ICYMI: New $6 million portal for Laguna Gloria

The Contemporary Austin has raised $6 million to make the entrance to Laguna Gloria more welcoming.

The entrance to Laguna Gloria will be transformed by a $6 million welcoming project. Contributed by Reed Hilderbrand

READ MORE about the plans at our premium site MyStatesman.com.

The beloved 14-acre site, home to b’s 1916 villa and, now, the sprawling b, is set to undergo a multiphase face-lift. The first step is to break ground March 21 on a new $6 million guest-friendly entrance complex and improvements to the verges of West 35th Street.

The effort was made possible by a $3 million grant from the Moody Foundation, which recently gave $15 million to the Waller Creek Conservancy to build a performance venue in Waterloo Park and $9.7 million to the Pease Park Conservancy to improve the green space alongside Shoal Creek, considered the city’s oldest park and site for a new Stickwork sculpture off Parkway.

Get a sneak peek inside Ellsworth Kelly’s stunning ‘Austin’ at UT

The much-anticipated opening of Ellsworth Kelly‘s’ “Austin,” a phenomenal new building that doubles as a monumental work of art on the University of Texas campus, is not until Feb. 18. But now we can give you a look inside.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Designed by late American modern artist Kelly, the $23 million project created by the Blanton Museum of Art instantly takes its place as a crown jewel of Austin art.

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Scroll down to see more photos, read what some people are saying about the work and to find out how you can see “Austin” for yourself once it opens.

“It will be a bold new landmark for the university and the city,” predicts Blanton director Simone Wicha, who spent years putting together “Austin,” colloquially known as the “Ellsworth Kelly Building” or just “The Ellsworth” or sometimes “The Kelly.” “Inevitably, it will change the way the world sees Austin.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ culminates the career of one of the greatest of modern artists,” says Richard Shiff, an art professor who directs UT’s Center for the Study of Modernism. “Kelly conceived of (it) as a single aesthetic experience. ‘Austin’ is culture in a pure form. Its appeal is universal.”

“‘Austin’ not only showcases Kelly’s early appreciation of historical European art and architecture,” curator Carter Foster says, “it also marries this passion with the transformative themes that he would discover over the course of his life. I hope that, with the help of this exhibition, everyone who visits the work will come away with the same sense of awe that I do.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The opening of ‘Austin’ further cements the Blanton as an international cultural destination,” Wicha says. “The broad geographic support we received for this project is reflective of the audience we anticipate visiting Kelly’s monumental achievement.”

RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

HOW TO SEE ‘AUSTIN’

Starting Feb. 18, Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ will be open during regular Blanton hours; entry is included with museum admission. Go to the Visitors Services desk inside the museum’s east wing to obtain tickets. Find out more at blantonmuseum.org.

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Austin still talking about monumental José Parlá mural

Over the weekend, we posted about “Amistad América,” the extraordinarily ambitious abstract mural by José Parlá at UT’s Rowling Hall, commissioned by the 10-year-old Landmarks program.

Hundreds gathered for the unveiling of José Parlá’s “Amistad América,” a huge abstract mural at UT’s new Rowling Hall. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

READ FULL STORY HERE.

That got folks talking on social media. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Carla McDonald: “Love these pix!”

Mary Margaret Quadlander: “Isn’t it stunning?!”

Alice Illian-Masquelette: “Wow!”

Julio Lozano: “Por La Raza!”

Evelina Rodrigue Warren: “Heard an interview with him on KUT. Can’t wait to see it.”

Phyllis Jackson Stegall: “Magnificent!”

Deborah Hamilton Lynne: “I must see it just because you clearly love it.”

Rick Smitherman: “Not as impressive when you discover it is paint by numbers.”

Me: “That would be a whole lot of numbers.”

Rick Smitherman: “It is indeed.”

 

SXSW puts a premium on art in 2018

At some point, South by Southwest will encompass all human activity.

Austin’s vast March spree started with music in the 1980s, then added movies and technology, before taking on education, philanthropy, the environment and allied fields.

Art came next.

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

Today, SXSW announced six art projects for its second annual  program scheduled for the conference and festivals March 9-18, 2018. Combined with the UNESCO Media Arts Exhibition at SXSW, the installations are meant to expand the discussion on visual and digital and media arts during the confab.

We’ll share some artists and titles. Find more information at SXSW Art Program.

SXSW ART PROGRAM INCLUDES:

“Conductors of the Resistance” by Ronen Sharabani

“Feast” by Caitlin Pickall

“Future of Secrets” by Sarah Newman, Jessica Yurkofsky and Rachel Kalmar

“Life Underground” by Hervé Cohen

“MTA: Floating Destiny” with music performed by GuQin

“A Colossal Wave!” by Marshmallow Laser Feast

UNESCO MEDIA ARTS EXHIBITION INCLUDES:

“Forgotten Landscapes” by James Hughes and Ha Na Lee

“Gathering”by Lisa Woods

“Herstory” by Yuliya Lanina

“Passage (Variation)” by Luke Savinsky

Meow Wolf

The Living Museum

“Against a Civic Death” by Rodney McMillian:

“Forever Bicycles” by Ai Weiwei

 

Step inside the enchanted stick village at Pease Park

Kids rush into the doors and hang out the windows. Adults step gingerly over the mulch floors and step back to view the five, tall, curved, leaning structures that look like something from “Where the Wild Things Are” or “The Hobbit.”

“We let the kids in early,” says StickWork artist Patrick Dougherty. “They weren’t sure they were allowed to come in the gate.”

Sam Dougherty works on a stick work sculpture with his artist father Patrick Dougherty, from Chapel Hill, N.C.  RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The fences come down today. The public unveiling is 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 10, courtesy of the Pease Park Conservancy.

“We wanted to make a cathedral,” Dougherty says. “We got five corners instead.”

The $106,000 project made from 10 tons of locally harvested then bent, woven and fastened Texas ash, elm, ligustrum and depression willow were built in three weeks by Dougherty and his son, Sam, along with volunteers and staff from Houston’s Weingarten Art Group. The site off Parkway not far from Windsor Road was picked because of accessibility and parking, but it’s also a little sheltered and not clearly visible from North Lamar Boulevard.

Volunteer Carol Burton helps to intertwine tree saplings into an inner wall of a the sculpture is made entirely out of tree saplings and is made possible by the Pease Park Conservancy which is committed to enhancing the cultural environment of the park. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dougherty, who has built 288 of these StickWork projects around the world after working on a family cabin, had always wanted to work in Austin. He says the still-unnamed group of five structures should last two years before they begin to deteriorate seriously.

The Conservancy will maintain the art, then, with the help mulch the remains to spread around the park.

READ EXPANDED STORY ON OUR PREMIUM PAGE.

Update: An earlier version of this post said the project cost more.

Today’s hires, fires, gifts and honors in Austin arts

We lied. This post reports on no firings. You can relax.

Yet “hires, fires, gifts and honors” sounds like a good catch-all headline. We might use it again.

Zilker Theatre Productions makes two key hires

The group that has staged the Zilker Summer Musical for 60 years has taken on J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore as artistic director. Moore, remembered recently for “Buyer and Cellar” at Zach Theatre, will work alongside Executive Director Kate Hix, already in place. Also, one of those beloved behind-the-scenes heroes, Shannon Richey, has been drafted as director of production. Moore and Richey are trusted veterans who will undoubtedly bolster this free and singularly Austin tradition. No word on next summer’s selection.

J. Robert Moore is now artistic director for Zilker Theatre Productions. Contributed

RELATED: Moore joins the Brotherhood of Barbra.

Austin Opera elects new board chairman

Arts benefactors Gail and Jeff Kodosky. Contributed by Becky Delgado

Austin Opera‘s board of trustees has designated Jeff Kodosky, founder of National Instruments and inveterate arts lovers, as its next chairman. He takes over the position from Elisabeth Waltz, who has served as chairwoman 2016. Kodosky has been with the board and the company through thick and thin since 1996. I’m sure this quiet, smiling man could tell some tales about the group that almost went away at least twice, but also has triumphed repeatedly. Next up is “Carmen” in November.

Huston-Tillotson is now an all-Steinway school. Contributed

Huston-Tillotson is now an all-Steinway school

Following a gift of $800,000, Huston-Tillotson University will become the only institution of higher learning in Central Texas, the fourth historically black college or university in the country, and the 196th college or university to join the All-Steinway School club. University officials will unveil the Steinway pianos during their Charter Day Convocation 10 a.m. Oct. 27, 2017 in the King-Seabrook Chapel on the campus at 900 Chicon Street. In addition, Steinway artist Marcus Roberts and the Marcus Roberts Trio will headline a special concert.

Tracy Bonfitto is the Ransom Center’s new curator of art. Contributed by Pete Smith

Ransom Center selects new curator of art

Austinites generally think of the Ransom Center as a literary treasure trove with out-of this-world strengths in modern literature, movies, performing arts and photography. And, oh yes, the Watergate papers. Yet is also houses, preserves and exhibits a lot of excellent visual art, too. Over the summer, Tracy Bonfitto was named curator of art. She comes with sterling credentials from Getty Research Institute, the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She’s also a University of Texas grad.

I’m sure she will meld partnerships with the other distinguished and closely related cultural spots in that area of Austin, including the Blanton Museum of Art, LBJ Presidential Library, Briscoe Center for American History and Bullock Texas State History Museum as well as UT’s highly regarded Landmarks public arts program and its Visual Arts Center. Maybe the new Ellsworth Kelly house will help point the way visually and viscerally for more of a interrelated cultural campus.