CultureMap Social ATX
Art Spotlight

Meet 4 Austin art groups shaping the creative community

Meet 4 Austin art groups shaping the creative community

East Austin Studio Tours 2013 1455
Big Medium hosts the annual East Austin Studio Tour.  Photo by Shelley Neuman

Austin is a collaborative town, so it’s not surprising that Austin’s art organizations are often about more than just promoting or producing great art. Whether it’s through initiatives to inspire youth, projects to foster dialogue or large-scale public art installations, these organizations share common goals of enhancing the creative community and creating vibrant experiences for our city.

In anticipation of CultureMap’s first Social of the year, we took a look at the four arts organizations that will be spotlighted at the event and the ways they promote — and encourage — collaboration within Austin’s creative community.

Big Medium
In 2003, Austin artists Shea Little, Joseph Phillips and Jana Swec held their first East Austin Studio Tour, inviting Austinites across I-35 (a much bigger deal a decade ago than it is now) and into artists’ studios, homes, garages and kitchens ... wherever they made their work. The idea was to give artists a way to show their work outside of a gallery setting and to give audiences a unique, authentic look at the creative process.

Now, EAST is a sprawling affair, with an estimated 15,000 attendees wandering into creative spaces all over the east side. It’s a blast to attend, and it's one of the best opportunities in the city for artists to sell their work and, just as importantly, engage with the community.

Community engagement is a driving force behind every project — big or small — that Big Medium is behind. In addition to EAST, there’s a West Austin Studio Tour and the Texas Biennial, an independent survey of contemporary art in Texas. Thanks to Big Medium, two large-scale renovated sites on the east side — Bolm Studios and Canopy — have become multi-artist studio/exhibition/retail spaces, giving artists not only places to work, but places to collaborate and gain a sense of artistic community.

Art Alliance Austin
Art Alliance Austin has been helping promote and produce art in Austin for a long time now. Established in 1956, Art Alliance Austin’s goal is to strengthen Austin’s artistic community through experiences. Through festivals like Art City Austin and projects like Hello Lamp Post, Art Alliance Austin dedicates itself to giving artists and art organizations platforms for showcasing their work.

Flexibility and inclusiveness is a key part of Art Alliance Austin’s mission and one of the reasons the organization has continued to evolve so successfully. Working behind the scenes on administrative things like development, event planning and marketing, Art Alliance Austin helps connect artists and audiences. In doing so it generates impressive economic benefits for the entire city.

Art Alliance Austin is responsible for $2.5 million in annual economic impact. The organization has gifted $332,000 to downtown art institutions since 2000 and $89,400 in commissioned projects since 2008.

Ballet Austin Guild
Love seeing Ballet Austin perform The Nutcracker every year? You can thank the volunteers of the Ballet Austin Guild for making that a reality. A nonprofit subsidiary of Ballet Austin, the Ballet Austin Guild is a volunteer-based organization that has been supporting Ballet Austin since 1975. The volunteers see themselves as “ambassadors of dance.” They not only support Ballet Austin, but help foster relationships within the Ballet Austin community.

Each year, the guild helps more than 13,000 Texas elementary school students and teachers attend Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker school shows. Guild members also work with Ballet Austin’s Community Education program as docents, visiting schools throughout Central Texas and giving students an educational presentation about dance and the The Nutcracker.

Oh, and the merchandise sold during The Nutcracker and other Ballet Austin performances? That’s being sold through the Ballet Austin Guild’s program Gift Barre, the organization's largest fundraising source, which helps make the Ballet Austin Guild one of Ballet Austin’s largest annual donors.

Creative Action
Creative Action started in 1997 as Theater Action Project, a violence prevention program developed by four graduate students in the UT Drama and Theater for Youth program. Now, the organization employs more than 75 people and operates with a budget of $1.3 million. But the goal is still the same: designing drama-based programs to help engage youth on social issues.

Using a team of professional "teaching artists," Creative Action seeks to inspire youth creatively and academically and give them an opportunity for learning that is fun, hands-on and full of experience.

Through a range of programs the organization helps more than 16,000 youth annually. Creative Action was named a finalist for the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, selected by the President’s Committee on the Arts.


Learn more about these organizations on Thursday, March 26 at the first CultureMap Social of the year at the Contemporary Austin at Laguna Gloria. There will be drinks, bites from Apis Restaurant & Apiary, a photo booth, custom jewelry station, and tunes by DJ Nabiya de Grace.

You can also vote to decide which of the four spotlighted arts organizations wins a 5,000 advertising package from CultureMap. Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased here.