A year into Austin's 10-1 city council format, a new public art exhibit is using the 10 districts as inspiration for exploring the city's unique identities. "Drawing Lines: Explorations of Place," opening April 1 at the McKean Eilers Building downtown, aims to unite the city while celebrating Austin's diversity.
Commissioned artists worked with the community in their assigned district to co-create a public art project based on the district, outlining the differences and similarities between each geographic area. The 10 art projects, which debuted at various times last year, will be presented in one place for the very first time April 1 through 10.
In 2013, the Austin City Council voted to change the face of city government entirely, switching from a seven-member council to a group of 10 district representatives and the mayor. Austin's diverse, vibrant neighborhoods are represented in each of the 10 districts — for example, most of Northwest Hills falls within District 10, while Clarksville falls within District 9, as does much of Travis Heights. As a result, the people who make up each district come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and have diverse cultures.
The "Drawing Lines" project takes a look at each of these districts and examines their unique culture.
District 1: Person/Place/Thing
The commissioned artists, local creative collective Los Outsiders, worked with East Austin's District 1 (represented by Council Member Ora Houston) to gather information and mementos that tell the story of the people who live in in the district, the places that mean the most to them, and personal belongings that hold meaning for them.
District 2: Portraits
Deborah Esquenazi and Carrie Kenny
Documentary film and radio producer Deborah Esquenazi and Carrie Kenny, a local writer and artist, used the Dove Springs Recreation Center in District 2 (represented by Council Member Delia Garza) to invite district residents to sit for a portrait. The portraits were used to create a video featuring the residents' voices telling their stories.
District 3: Windows
Adrian Quesada — Council Member Sabino Renteria
Adrian Quesada, a Grammy-winning musician and producer, has lived in District 3 for 15 years and has produced a song and accompanying video to provide a window into the life of District 3 residents. Represented by Council Member Sabino Renteria, the District 3 video features students and musicians bridging all ages and cultures from the district.
District 4: Youth Voices of the 4
Zell Miller III
Acclaimed leader of poetry, theater, and hip-hop, Zell Miller III grew up in District 4 (represented by Council Member Greg Casar) and worked with young writers to develop his art installment for "Drawing Lines." Invested in the community's youth, he said he wanted to provide the kids with a voice by teaching them to tell their personal stories through poetry. He hosted writing workshops throughout the district. At the exhibit, the young writers will share what they have written, and community members will read their poems.
District 5: Share
Sonya Cote and Hometown Revival
Producing a 25-foot table built from wood salvaged from the fires that devastated Bastrop County in 2011, Chef Sonya Cote and the Hometown Revival commemorate the 25 houses lost in a flood in the Cherry Creek Community Garden located in District 5 (represented by Council Member Ann Kitchen). The table will be placed in the center of the park to encourage the community to share meals made of ingredients from the garden. Cote's new book, A Table in the Garden, outlines the process of the project and features recipes from the harvest. It will be available for purchase throughout the 10-day exhibit.
District 6: Untitled
Artist Josef Kristofolotti designed a mural-painting robot to represent the digital innovation happening within many areas of District 6. Kristofolotti's printer will print any image in a color dot matrix on a large scale and can be attached to any wall. District 6 is represented by Council Member Don Zimmerman.
District 7: Wash Lantern
Artist Teruko Nimura worked with the Northwest Recreation Center and the Asian American Resource Center to hold workshops in origami folding, allowing District 7 residents to create their own origami art that included their written wishes. The origami pieces were then threaded onto solar string lights to bring them to life to reflect the district's appreciation of their community and local gathering spaces. District 7 is represented by Council Member Leslie Pool.
District 8: Grant to Plant — $3,333.33 Plant Giveaway
Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas
Film producers Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas built mailboxes with District 8 residents and then used one-third of their grant budget, $3,333.33, to purchase plants from the Natural Gardener to give away to residents. When the residents received the plants, Bresnan and Lucas worked as a faux news crew to "cover" the giveaway, interviewing residents about issues in their district (represented by Council Member Ellen Troxclair).
District 9: Construction Event
Since District 9 (represented by Council Member Kathie Tovo) is known for the high-stakes competition for space for housing, businesses, and events, artist Jack Sanders used everyday items found at construction sites to create a large geodesic ball made with scaffolding materials.
District 10: Sound Atlas
Sound artist Steve Parker created an interactive musical composition playable via smartphone by anyone within the district's boundaries. The score was triggered by various factors, including location, time of day, how fast the listener is moving, and which way the listener is facing. The composition is fully sourced from sounds collected by the community within District 10 (represented by Council Member Sheri Gallo). Over time, residents will be able to upload additional personal stories, oral histories, and "found sounds" so that the composition is ever-changing.
"Drawing Lines: Explorations of Place" kicks off with a free opening party Friday, April 1, from 7 to 10 pm at the McKean-Eilers Building. Gallery hours are April 2 through 10 from noon to 5 pm. As part of the celebration, on April 3, 9, and 10 Capital Metro will be hosting transit adventures: bus and train tours that take visitors to explore the 10 sites related to the artists’ work.