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Fresh canvas: Tiny Park opens new east side gallery with Greatest Hits exhibition

Austin photo: Contributor_Michael Graupmann
Austin photo: News_Mike_Tiny Park_New Gallery
The new (unfinished) east side Tiny Park gallery space
Austin photo: News_Mike_Tiny Park_Logo
Austin photo: News_Mike_Tiny Park_Miguel Aragon
Work by Miguel Aragon Courtesy of Miguel Aragon
This summer, an in-home gallery will find a new, separate space on Austin's East Side.
 
Tiny Park Art Space is a perfect example of the little Austin art space that could. After an exciting year that featured a number of impressive showings by award-winning local artists like PJ Raval and Miguel Aragón, Tiny Park is now expanding their mission to become a full-on east Austin cultural center and a hub of international art projects.
 
Gallery director Brian Willey and his roommate and business partner, Thao Votang, have been running Tiny Park out of their shared home over the past year.
 
Willey has an MFA in studio art from the Art Institute of Chicago and Votang is a graduate from UT's Art History department. After meeting at Okay Mountain here in Austin, the two ventured into part-time business together, with Tiny Park Art Space the result.
 
On the eve of their grand opening of their new space located at 1101 Navasota Street this Friday, we talked with Willey about the challenges he and Votang have had to overcome, the grand opening hype and the future of the formerly tiny Tiny Park.

CultureMap: You've been running Tiny Park out of your shared home with Thao the last year. How did the idea to start the gallery in your house originate?

Brian Willey: [Thao and I] originally met at Okay Mountain. We both have art backgrounds — I studied studio art and had previously worked in galleries and Thao studied art history at UT. We both had an interest in starting some type of cultural space, and Austin definitely needed more venues. Starting out of our house was just the best way to jump in and get going immediately.
 
What were the biggest challenges you faced with running the gallery in your home?
 
It was fairly easy to set up because we rented the specific house knowing it would work for exhibitions. The biggest challenges were our somewhat hidden location and modest scale. We also couldn't run as a true business because of zoning. We will miss some aspects of having a home-based gallery, though... It was certainly cheaper, and it was comfortable and accessible for visitors. I think some of our visitors will also miss seeing Rabbit, our cat.

What are the unique benefits/challenges of the new space then? 
 
Location! Twelve-foot ceilings. More space. Parking. We will be having events other than just exhibitions, like readings, film screenings, performances, so the bigger space will allow us to branch out and be more ambitious. As far as challenges: it is basically one open space, which will make it more challenging for certain types of programming. We had two rooms in the old space so we could easily do two separate types of shows at the same time, or we could give video its own space, that sort of thing.
 
It's a lot of work to start a gallery and to find a space, especially. Who have been your biggest supporters and allies in this venture?
 
Actually, we've had a lot of support from across the community: other artists, other galleries and the local media. A very nice thing about Austin is that people in the artistic community generally support one another and work together. At least, that is what our experience has been.

With your participation in W.E.S.T. in May, you undoubtedly reached a new audience. And you mention the challenges of your previous out-of-the-way location. Who will be most excited to learn about Tiny Park that might not already know you guys? 
 
I'd say anyone interested in visual art — or at least curious about it — simply for the viewing experience or for collecting. As our programming expands beyond the visual arts, we'll want to reach out to other audiences as well. It does seem like the audiences for the various types of arts are somewhat separate from one another, and we'd like to bring them all together as much as possible. 
 
Friday night is your big debut of the new space. What are you looking forward to most about the opening?
 
For the opening, we are most looking forward to seeing people enjoy the results of all the work we have put into this new venture, and to celebrate the start of a new chapter.
 
The opening exhibition is a collection of works from throughout the past year. How did you decide on which ones to include?
 
We wanted to include at least one work by each of the artists we previously showed in our home-based gallery. In a couple of cases, the artists made new work for the show, but most of the pieces came from our past exhibitions. The show acts as a kind of history for Tiny Park and will give people a good idea about the types of things we do.

Speaking of the "new chapter," what's in store for the gallery in the coming year?
 
We are working on some bigger projects involving outside collaborations and international artists. We'll be able to tell you more about that soon! We'll start having readings, screenings, and other one-off types of events as well. We want to have some oddball social events as well; dinners and music listening parties, for example. And we have exhibitions planned with local artists Anthony Garza and Leah Haney. Other projects are, of course, in the design phase.
 
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The Tiny Park New Gallery Opening happens Friday, June 29 from 7 - 11 p.m. The Greatest Hits exhibition continues until July 28, with viewings available on Saturdays from 12 - 5 pm and by appointment.

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