East Austin Studio Tour: Get going, get out there

“El Capacitor” is a public installation by Michael Anthony García, a commissioned project by TEMPO, the city’s temporary public art initiative.

“El Capacitor” is in East Austin’s Metz Park and thus an official stop on this year’s East Austin Studio Tour. It is one of five TEMPO projects on the tour.

READ: A guide to the ever-expanding East Austin Studio Tour

A bright red podium forms the center of García’s installation. The podium is surrounded by flagpoles bearing flags that are stitched together from neighborhood residents’ clothing.

García is an astute and thoughtful artist whose creative and curatoral practice is rooted in timely social issues.

READ: Los Outsiders curate exhibit to spark conversation about gentrification.

The title “El Capacitor” refers to the nearby decommissioned Holly Street Power Plant, which for half a century belched toxic fumes, leaked chemicals into Lady Bird Lake and was the site of numerous oil spills and fires.

Only after considerable community and citizen action did the Holly Street Power Plant close in 2007.

However, by the mid-aughts, the surrounding neighborhood of modest houses, for generations a predominantly Latino enclave, was already witnessing significant changes as gentrification drew a new demographic — yes, including artists to the downtown-adjacent neighborhood.

For García, “El Capacitor” is symbol of the community’s potential energy — a symbolic space created to inspire the neighborhood’s longtime residents to amplify their voice.

“El Capacitor” can also be read as a summons for everyone to get out there and talk to each other in a civic space. Its bright podium offers a dignified platform for all voices. And its circle of flags frames a demand for all of us to listen to each other.

“El Capacitor” by Michael Anthony García. Photo courtesy of the artist.


What to see at EAST: These artist warehouses and co-working spaces are home to many

‘Creek Show’ rising: Temporary installations taking shape at Waller Creek

Update: Take a look: ‘Creek Show’ opens, artfully illuminating Waller Creek


Over the weekend several of the artists and architects making illuminated wonders for this year’s “Creek Show” began installing their creations.

Read our preview coverage: ‘Creek Show’ brings five illuminated art installations to Waller Creek

Jules Buck Jones and Tim Derrington posted images of their work-in-progress, and working-in-waders, to Facebook.

Jones’ 40-foot mosasaur sculpture took up residence under the Eighth Street bridge. A predatory ancestors of snakes and lizards, the mosasaur swam the shallow sea that once covered much of the North American continent before going extinct 65 million years ago.

Jules Buck Jones and his team install Jones' mosasaur sculpture over Waller Creek. Photo courtesy Jules Buck Jones.
Jules Buck Jones and his team install Jones’ mosasaur sculpture over Waller Creek. Photo courtesy Jules Buck Jones.


Derrington and his team waded into the murky section of Waller Creek below Easy Tiger to install “Deep Curiousity,” a 50-foot-diameter arch.

Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.
Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.

With five site-specific installations illuminated nightly for just 10 ten evenings “Creek Show” starts Thursday.  There’s a slew of programs accompanying “Creek Show”  so check our listings.

I will be moderating the free panel discussion with this year’s “Creek Show” creators 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 15. Please join us!

“Creek Show”
6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 10-19
Where: Waller Creek between Fifth and Eighth streets
Tickets: Free. Pick up a free wristband at the creekside information table between Sixth and Seventh streets. The wristband can be used for a free series of events.




Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.
Photo courtesy Tim Derrington.

What Houdini ate: An Austin archive reveals foodie facts about the magician

Eric Colleary, curator of the theater and performing arts collection at the Ransom Center, has a side interest: The history of foodways, how eating habits and culinary practices change through the eras.

Colleary maintains a blog, The American Table, in which he documents his experiences trying historic recipes for dishes such as Election Cake  and delves into topics such as the story of butchering in America.

“Food hits all the senses,” says Colleary. “Tasting foods made from historic recipes gives you a sense of the labor, the skill, the economy, the geographic and historical influences, and the palate of a person.”

And so when he set out to organize an exhibit in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death, Colleary culled the Ransom Center’s collection of the magician’s papers and books for any information on what the famous illusionist liked to eat.

Says Colleary: “For a figure like Houdini, (understanding what he ate) cuts through the legend directly to the person, who, like everyone else, has to eat.”

The Houdini exhibit, on view through Nov. 6, dovetails with “Houdini Speaks to the Living,” a new play devised from the Ransom Center’s Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collections to imagine the two men in a debate about the true nature of magic.

Sherlock Holmes author Doyle was adamant in his belief in the supernatural, while Houdini spent considerable efforts debunking fraudulent psychics. Produced by Hidden Room Theater, the play opens Oct. 21. Read our story about the show here.

For the Houdini exhibit, Colleary tracked down two celebrity cookbooks — “Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries” (1916) and “The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men” (1922) — in which he found three recipes attributed to the performer.

Yes, celebrity cookbooks were a thing a century ago.

“Celebrity cookbooks had been popular for some time before the early 20th century,” says Colleary. “But a new generation of home economics made home cooks more skilled and comfortable at what they were doing.”

“And the rise of the theater and vaudeville circuits as well as the advent of radio and film also greatly expanded the number of celebrities.”

Houdini’s recipe in “Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of the Favorite Foods of Famous Players,” 1916. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

There’s scant evidence that the renowned illusionist had much interest in actually conjuring things up in the kitchen himself, though. His wife, Bess, did most of the cooking.

Says Colleary: “One biography said that Houdini’s idea of comfort was to sit in his armchair in his library and wait for Bess to call up, ‘Young man, your lunch is ready!’”

Born in Budapest to a Jewish family, Houdini immigrated as a child with his family to the United States in 1878. Not surprisingly, the food he found most dear throughout his life reflected his Hungarian and Jewish background — dishes his mother would have made at home, Collary notes.

Bess mentioned that her husband’s favorite foods included Hungarian chicken (otherwise known as chicken paprikash), spatzel (egg noodles) and custard bread pudding with bing cherries. That Houdini also enjoyed Hungarian goulash is noted by several biographers.

Houdini’s published recipes, however, don’t specifically reflect his family’s ancestral foodways but rather represent more quotidian American fare of his era.

Houdini’s recipes in “The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men.,” Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Houdini met his wife while both worked as vaudeville performers on Coney Island. They married on June 22, 1894, and, Colleary says, the couple spent many of their anniversaries at Coney Island eating hot dogs and strolling the boardwalk.

For their 25th anniversary, however, the couple invited 200 guests to the Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles for a ten-course banquet that included Crab Supreme, Breast of Chicken Virginienne, strawberry parfait and champagne — a menu Colleary found reported in a newspaper of the time.


“The Stag Cook Book: Written for Men by Men,” collected and edited by C. Mac Sheridan, 1922. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.


Houdini died Oct. 31, 1926, of complications resulting from a ruptured appendix. He was 52.

And the magician’s last meal?

Colleary discovered that Houdini ate something rather familial — Farmer’s Chop Suey, a chopped salad with yogurt or sour cream that was popular with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

A recipe typical of the period is here: http://www.antiquerecipes.net/farmers-chop-suey/


“Celebrated Actor Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of the Favorite Foods of Famous Players,” compiled by Mabel Rowland, 1916. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Creek Show preview: First peek at illuminated installations coming to Waller Creek

The Waller Creek Conservancy’s popular “Creek Show” is coming to downtown Austin in just a few weeks.

And today, the organizers have released renderings of the five illuminated site-specific temporary installations that will light up four blocks of Waller Creek from 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 10-19.

The free happening is a means for the conservancy — a nonprofit partner helping the city shape the transformation of 1.5 miles of downtown creekside —  to bring the public’s attention to the overlooked subterranean stretch of Waller Creek.

The opening night party starts at 6 p.m. Nov. 10; there will be a DJ creekside and drink specials available at creek-adjacent bars including Easy Tiger, the Gatsby, Waller Creek Pub House and more.

And on Nov. 15, I will be moderating an artists’ talk at 6:30 p.m. at the Palm Door on Sabine during which I’ll get the Creek Show designers to open up about their creative process, the challenge of working with an ephemeral artistic medium such as light and the uniqueness of designing something for a singular spot in the urban landscape.

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at renderings of the five temporary projects:

Jules Buck Jones is making a 40-foot sculpture of an extinct sea lizard called a Mosasaur that 65 million years ago swam through the shallow sea that covered Central Texas. UT geology students found an almost complete skeleton of a Mosasaur in Onion Creek in 1935, and it’s now on exhibit at the Texas Memorial Museum. Jones’ sculpture will be under the East Eighth Street bridge.

E 8th Street Bridge over Waller Creek
Jules Buck Jones illuminated sculpture of a Mosasaur,


• “Nimbus Cloud,” by Dharmesh Patel and Autumn Ewalt, is a raincloud-shaped sculpture with programmable LEDs that will change in pattern and light, the water below reflecting the ephemeral display.



• The team of East Side Collective and Drophouse Design (Tim Derrington, Wilson Hanks and Christian Klein) conceived of “Deep Curiosity,” a partially submerged enormous illuminated circular form dipped into the murky nighttime creek water just on the south side of the East Sixth Street bridge near the Easy Tiger terrace.

“Deep Curiosity” is near Easy Tiger.


Kory Bieg’s “The Creek Zipper” is an undulating stretch of milled aluminum forms — some stretched over the water — that will extend the length of the creek between the East Sixth Street bridge ending near the Seventh Street bridge.

"The Creek Zipper"
“The Creek Zipper”

“Phantom Diversion,” by Alisa West and Travis Cook, will draw attention to the stretch of large, above-grade diversion pipes that will someday be replaced when the intake station (part of the Waller Creek flood control project) is up and functional. In the meantime, West and Cook will give us a double helix of lovely light.

"Phanton Diversion"
“Phanton Diversion”


3 things to do in Austin if you’re not at ACL

We get it. Not everyone wants to spend $250 to stand in the sun and dust for three days at the Austin City Limits Festival.

It’s a good thing that Austin-made culture runs so much deeper than live music. Here are three singularly Austin things to do:

See something else that’s live: Hyde Park Theatre is the home of edgy, smart, contemporary plays laced with dark humor. Duncan Macmillan’s “Lungs” finds a couple wrestling with the decision to have a child while considering what kind of world we have.  The 80-minute play stars Liz Beckham and Michael Joplin, who both give a tour-de-force performance.

Relive the music: Run by former Modern English lead guitarist Steven Walker, Modern Rocks Gallery specializes in rock and roll photography including the archive of Scott Newtown, longtime official photograph of the ACL’s television show on PBS.

And while at you’re at Modern Rocks, take advantage of  its East Austin location for at do-it-yourself East Austin art tour:


Stevie Ray Vaughn. Photo by Scott Newton.
Stevie Ray Vaughn. Photo by Scott Newton. Courtesy Modern Rocks.


Get ready for another festival:  It’s perfect weather to find a nice porch or a park and tuck in with a book by a writer appearing at the Texas Book Festival. Here are three fresh titles by a worldly trio of Austin-based authors who will be at the book fest:

  • Antonio Ruiz-Camacho’s “Barefoot Dogs.” The former Mexican journalist’s debut collection of inter-related short stories is rich with ambiguity, dark humor and startlingly vivid images of recent immigrants who have fled Mexico because of drug violence.
  • Dominic Smith’s “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.” A page-turner by the Australian-born author that deftly moves and forth in time, from a 1950s Manhattan lawyer whose family has owned a rare Renassiance painting for centuries to the art historian who forged the painting as a young student to the mysterious Dutch woman in 1600s who painted the painting.
  • Karan Mahajan’s “The Association of Small Bombs.” Majan’s tale of terrorist attack in a market in Delhi and its aftermath deftly, eloquently and prov0ctively traces the complex psychological, social and philosophical aftermath of the increasingly commonplace yet random violence of today’s world.






Blue Genie Art Bazaar moves to new location

The popular holiday season art shopping happening is moving to a new location this year.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar is shifting locations not far from when its been the last few years.

This year it’s at 6100 Airport Blvd. in a big warehouse right across the street from ACC’s Highland Campus. See a map here: https://goo.gl/maps/YczxZDZUuxy

More than 200 regional artists, makers and artisans display their creations.

Blue Genie is a super chill shopping experience with free admission and parking, a centralized checkout, refreshments and a cash bar. It’s open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for four weeks, Nov. 24-Dec. 24.  The fair also supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The event was founded in 2001 by the principals of Blue Genie Art Industries — Austin Arts Hall of Fame members Chris Coakley, Kevin Collins, Rory Skagen and Dana Younger.


Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Blue Genie Art Bazaar

Listen up Austin: The cinematic sounds of Justin Sherburn

Alt classical, indie classical, hybrid classical  — Austin composer Justin Sherburn describes his style as ambient classical.

Sherburn’s had a long and varied career, playing with bands like indie folk Okkervil River and the Django Reinhardt-ish 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Theater scenesters know Sherburn for his award-winning scores to several Trouble Puppet Theatre shows, Tongue and Groove Theatre and Sky Candy.

Listen to Sherburn’s “Music for Puppets” free compilation CD.

Sherburn’s been burning it up lately.

This spring his valentine to Enchanted Rock — a piece for strings, piano, pedal-steel and live laptop effects with Leon Alesi’s poetic photographs of the Texas geological wonder screened large — proved so popular Sherburn and his Montopolis Ensemble had to stage an encore performance.

composer Justin Sherburn. Photo by Leon Alesi
Austin composer Justin Sherburn. Photo by Leon Alesi

This weekend, Sherburn and Montopolis are featured in “Loop Mass,” an immersive concert staged by Austin Museum of Digital Art that’ll have looping video by 50 artists projected onto onto a massive floor-to-ceiling, suspended sculpture. Audience members can roam during the show.

Sherburn will be featured Friday night. On his set list is music from “Enchanted Rock” and also selections from his score for the 1920s silent film masterpiece “Man With a Movie Camera.”

Info on “Loop Mass” here: www.amoda.org/events/loop-mass/

Listen up to three movements from “Enchanted Rock” and a long section of “Man With a Movie Camera.”




“Listen Up Austin” is an occasional blog series featuring Austin music makers.



City launches Austin Cultural Asset Mapping Project

The need for affordable space for is the most urgent concern in across Austin’s arts and creative communities.

Among the steps the city’s Cultural Arts Division is taking is take a census of all the city’s cultural facilities — both public owned such as recreation centers and libraries as well as private spaces, cultural “corridors” and formal or informal neighborhood creative hotspots.

The 134-seat Boyd Vance Theatre is in the city's Carver Museum and Cultural Center in East Austin.
The 134-seat Boyd Vance Theatre is in the city’s Carver Museum and Cultural Center in East Austin.

The city received grants from from the National Endowment of the Arts  and ArtPlace America to kickstart the Cultural Assest Mapping Project (CAMP) which just launched and is intended to gather data to support the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution

The Cultural Arts urges public participation. Read the official release below. There will be several community meetings in the different council districts around the city.

Already the city has begun mapping cultural assets using this online version.




City of Austin news release:

The City of Austin Economic Development Department is preparing to map the city’s creative and cultural assets in each of the ten City Council districts and is looking to the community to help locate these assets.  The Cultural Asset Mapping Project, or CAMP, will create a city-wide census of its cultural facilities and creative resources to integrate into the City’s planning and economic development processes for use by the City, creative sector, developers, planners, and others.  The project provides data to help with the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution and Staff’s Stabilization Recommendations to address the growing crisis of affordable space for Austin’s creative community.  Information about CAMP can be found online at austintexas.gov/culturemapping.

“Austin became a magnet for creativity because of the affordable housing, buildings that were cheap fixer-uppers, and a stimulating creative environment that supported artists and musicians,” said Meghan Wells, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division Manager. “Now that the city’s population and developments have exploded, inexpensive creative space is at a premium or non-existent, and our creatives are being forced to make hard choices or leave altogether.  We need to find ways to preserve and protect our cultural assets and producers before they’re all gone.”

Community meetings in each of the ten districts have been scheduled and the City is encouraging residents to attend and participate in this interactive mapping exercise.  Participants will have an opportunity to review a GIS-based map of the district of easily found cultural resources and add additional location points.  The data collected will serve as baseline information to identify creative sector gaps and “clusters” for future planning and development of economic development strategies.  The city’s partner, GO collaborative, a design and planning firm focused on creative placemaking, community engagement, and master planning, will facilitate the community meetings.  Various organizations and businesses are co-hosting the community mapping exercises.

The City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division (CAD) is undertaking the project to help the city better understand what important places and resources exist to support Austin’s culture and creativity.  CAMP will include these collaborative community mapping exercises, plus an online survey and interactive map, and a series of focused community conversations to create a comprehensive, community-developed listing of Austin’s cultural assets.  With more information on hand, the City of Austin can better position the city’s creative assets to be a vital part of immediate and future planning efforts.

The City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division received funding from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and ArtPlace America to support the development of the community-driven cultural resource maps, district status reports, and associated community and economic development strategies through engaging directly with residents of Austin’s 10 Council Districts. Such cultural economic development work will strengthen Austin neighborhoods, activity centers, and corridors through revealing unique places or nascent areas of creativity that could become locations for neighborhood creativity centers, creative sector incubators, creative corridors/hubs, and cultural districts with a little help, community participation and collaboration, and investment.

CAMP is happening within the larger context of the ten Council Districts, Imagine Austin and Creative Economy Priority Program implementation, CodeNEXT (Austin’s land development code revision), Long-Range CIP Strategic Planning, the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution and City staff’s Stabilization Recommendations, implementation of other cultural economic strategies by the City of Austin, the Austin creative sector and the larger Austin community.
Upcoming District Community Meetings:

Saturday, August 20, 2016 (District 5)
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Manchaca Road Branch Library
5500 Manchaca Road, Austin 78745

Saturday, August 27, 2016 (District 3)
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Montopolis Rec Center
1200 Montopolis Dr., Austin 78741

Monday, August 29, 2016 (District 8)
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Branch Library
5125 Convict Hill Road, Austin 78749

Saturday, September 10, 2016 (District 7)
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Northwest Rec Center
2913 Northland Drive, Austin 78757

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 (District 4)
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Grant A.M.E. Church
1701 Kramer Lane, Austin 78758

Thursday, September 15, 2016 (District 2)
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Dove Springs Rec Center
5801 Ainez Dr., Austin 78744

Saturday, September 17, 2016 (District 10)
10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Old Quarry Branch Library
7051 Village Center Drive, Austin 78731

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 (District 6)
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Spicewood Springs Library
8637 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin 78759

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 (District 1)
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Carver Branch Library
1161 Angelina St., Austin 78702

Saturday, September 24, 2016 (District 9)
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Cultural Arts Division Offices / Training Room
201 E. 2nd Street, Austin 78701

Theater review: Hyde Park Theatre’s “The Flick” is a top pick

(This review is by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Andrew J. Friedenthal.)


With relatively simple technical demands, and generally small casts, playwright Annie Baker’s work (a return, of sorts, of naturalism to the American stage, complete with a symphony of awkward silences) is popular with regional and local theaters throughout America.

Austin’s own Hyde Park Theater (HPT) is no exception, having produced several of Baker’s works over the past few years. Now they bring us her 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Flick, and once again showcase the power of her writing.

The Flick is the story of a run-down movie theater in the Boston area, and three of its employees: Sam, who feels he is far too old for such a menial job; Avery, a neurotic college student with a deep and abiding love for movies; and Rose, an outspoken manic pixie projectionist with her own set of issues.

The star of HPT’s production of The Flick is its design concept. Baker’s text calls for a view of a movie theater from the perspective of the screen, looking out at the seats. Director and set designer Ken Webster has creatively placed the audience on what is traditionally the theater’s stage, turning the bolted-in audience seats into the playing space.

Katie Kohler and Delanté G. Keys in "The Flick" at Hyde Park Theatre. Photo by Bret Brookshire.
Katie Kohler and Delanté G. Keys in “The Flick” at Hyde Park Theatre. Photo by Bret Brookshire.

Because HPT’s seating area is divided into two distinct sections, the audience’s attention is constantly being pulled back and forth between these two spaces that can’t be taken in simultaneously. This allows for a sense of physical division between characters when called for, and a delightful sense of unity when they are brought into the same space. The Flick’s subtext is thus wonderfully physicalized by its staging.

HPT’s small space also creates for a sense of intense intimacy between audience and performer. Baker’s work is often filled with small talk and discussions about popular culture and other everyday ephemera; here, the audience feels like they are actually in the movie theater alongside Sam, Avery, and Rose, almost tempted at times to join in the conversation. In a play that is entirely about the close (and yet simultaneously distant) relationships between these three individuals, that kind of closeness makes a real difference.

In being able to pull off such an intimate performance, Shanon Weaver (Sam), Delanté G. Keys (Avery), and Katie Kohler (Rose) show true versatility, as each of them is required to display both the broad performance style demanded by the stage as well as the specific performance of facial and emotional nuance needed in film. Keys, in particular, pulls off this balancing act impressively, showcasing the nuances of Avery’s nerdiness, depression, and anxiety.

It’s easy to understand why The Flick – with its exploration of issues ranging from heartbreak to depression to race/class dynamics to the magic of the movies themselves – won a Pulitzer. Hyde Park Theater’s new production of the play only goes to further show us its power and depth, reminding us that live theater is just as important and magical as the movie theater.



Austin’s newest mural art: ‘Juegala Fria: Play it Cool Austin’

Last week we caught up with David “Shek” Vega, the San Antonio artist and owner of buzzed about Gravelmouth Gallery who serves as curator’s for this year’s Young Latino Artists exhibit at Mexic-Arte Museum.

Vega titled the exhibt “Amexican@” — that @ symbol a key to defining the 11 artists and one collective Vega selected, all millennials or younger born in the 1980s and 1990s.

“These artists deal with identity, but not necessarily in the same way as the Chicano artists who came before them,” told me during our walk through the exhibit. “We’re Mexican and we’re American and so we’re ‘Amexican@.’”

Since he was curating the current show (it’s up through Aug. 28; Sundays offer free admission), Mexic-Arte Museum invited Vega — a busy muralist, check out what he did for the Spurs — to create a mural on the museum’s East Fifth Street outside wall.

Check out our story on “Young Latino Artists 21: Amexican@”

Vega and his “Juegala Fria: Play it Cool Austin” mural at Mexic-Arte Museum, E. Fifth St. and Congress Ave.