Mental Health Break

7 cultural activities Austin families can do right from home

7 cultural activities Austin families can do right from home

Mr Will austin musician
Mr. Will is offering live music every day on his Facebook Live channel. Mr. Will Austin, TX Kid's Music/Facebook

A few weeks ago, Austinites were making our spring break or SXSW plans, and now most of us are homebound. Toilet paper and beans are all sold out. Kids are home indefinitely while many of us are shifting to a work-from-home situation, and we’re all worried about our health or the health of loved ones, our financial situations, and just how to navigate this new normal.

There are so many superheroes in this situation, from H-E-B employees to health care professionals, but here we’re sharing the work of artists, educators, creators, and other teachers who are here to help you through your day at home.

For amateur cooks
What did you get at the store? Whether it’s not something you normally pick up or you were the one who bought all the beans, Paula Forbes is here to help you and the rest of the family get cooking. The Austin-based writer and author of The Austin Cookbook is waiving the subscription fee for her newsletter The Stained Page News (yes, a newsletter about cookbooks!) and offering the content, including recipes using pantry ingredients, for free during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I decided to make it free because I think the world of cookbooks is one of the few things that is more or less the same as it was before, and I thought people could use something nice,” Forbes says. “I also … didn’t really know what else to do. I hope it helps somebody!”

For artists old and young
Whether you have kids at home or not, few things are more centering than sitting down to draw — even if you think you’re not great at it. Children’s book author and illustrator (best known for the Pigeon book series) offers Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems! in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts every weekday at 12 pm CT.

If you’re on Instagram, check out Wendy MacNaughton (@wendymac), illustrator of Samin Noosrat’s New York Times bestselling cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat, on Instagram Live, weekdays at 12 pm CT as she broadcasts a draw-along. 

A dash of culture
Museums are closed and literary events cancelled, but technology can help you tune in and quell your cultural cravings. If architecture is your thing, head over to the Austin History Center’s, Fehr and Granger: Austin Modernists, an online exhibit chronicling the work of architecture firm Fehr & Granger in Austin from 1946 to 1966. The exhibit includes galleries of the pair’s residential and commercial work. View all of the center's online exhibits here.

San Antonio writer Xelena Gonzȧlez ( polls followers and offers “Lotería Remedios,” a collection of affirmations and healing remedies from her book of the same name, inspired by the popular game La Lotería in her Instagram stories. Though she’s a children’s book author and plans to offer online content for kids too, Gonzȧlez says she wanted to broaden her approach in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s not a lot of things for us — for adults and parents — and there are a lot of artists out of work, too," she explains. "I wanted to share that art form for various ages, and also since there’s a game attached to it — the Lotería game —it’s also just something fun to do.”

The sound of music
If you have kids, enjoy a morning serenade from local bluegrass musician Mr. Will. He’ll be on Facebook Live each day at 10 am CT with interactive concerts, often with a different instrument each day.

Last Saturday’s Living Room Dance Party with DJ Mel on Facebook Live started slowly, but has now reached a million people all over the world. A longtime fixture at UT football and basketball games, and active in the local nonprofit community, DJ Mel, or Mel Cavaricci, suddenly found himself with a Saturday night off. At the beginning of the year, he had resolved to work towards connecting people through music and he was already doing virtual dance parties for friends. 

On March 14, with his SXSW plans cancelled, he took to Facebook live to create a dance party for the public. He stayed online as the number of viewers grew and comments and heart and balloon emojis flooded in. What started as something shared among friends grew to delight a wider audience and DJ Mel will be on Facebook Live with the Living Room Dance Party each Saturday night for the foreseeable future.