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Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art

Free up your mind, spirit, and some time this December to appreciate all the arts on offer in Austin, from new installations to pop-up shows and year-end group exhibitions. New lights dazzle at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden with family-friendly sculptural art works from the Design Shine juried competition; over 120 rescue dogs have earned the spotlight in art works created by local and national artists capturing the Tito’s distillery dogs rescued over the years; and the Blanton presents the work of modern artists created prints, drawings, paintings, illustrated books, sculptures, and decorative objects informed by the craftsmanship and compelling historical figures of the Middle Ages in Medieval X Modern. So many options to dazzle the senses this holiday season.

Long Center
“Impressions of Tito’s Distillery Dogs Over 25 Years” — Now through January 4, 2023

Inspired by the 120+ distillery dogs rescued over the years, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People has unveiled its newest project, a one-of-a-kind, 25-piece art collection featuring vibrant dog artwork created by local and national artists. Dogs are a huge part of the brand's story, and since the early days when strays found their way to the distillery, they were always well received and the employees would feed, nurture, and find them loving homes. Each portrait depicts a dog’s unique story and legacy of resilience, with featured work by local artists including Tom Jean Webb, Sam Soper, Saira Holland, Raine Lipscher, Lindsay Laser Smith, Judy Paul, John Walker, Joel Ganucheau, Jeff Skele, Hope Perkins, Erika Jane Amerika, Elissa Marie, and Amy Ringholz.

ATX Wonderspaces

“Micromonumental Mapping, the Essence of Creation by Limelight” — New Installation
The Essence of Creation by Limelight was originally created to be displayed on the Opéra de Lille in France for the Lille Video Mapping Festival that was set to take place in April 2020. Due to COVID 19, the festival had to be postponed so the artists decided to downscale and project it onto a 1:40 3D model of the building. Inspired by the national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo, who has been recognized as a god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, war and death, the artwork conveys this complexity by using the symbolic and physical elements of the building.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden

“Design Shine” — December 1 through April 15, 2023
Presented by the Emerging Professionals Committee of AIA Austin and the UMLAUF, the Design Shine juried competition was created to promote emerging talent in the fields of architecture and design. This year’s competition showcases winning installations by three local design teams, Crux Celestia, Introspectacle and Prismascope. Each presents a unique interpretation of the 2023 theme, Designing for Discovery with the goal of enlivening and energizing the UMLAUF Garden in new and unexpected ways with captivating, family-friendly sculptural art works. All three installations include elements of light that can also be enjoyed during evening events or viewed from the street.

Wally Workman

“America Martin: Solo Show” — December 3 through 30
America Martin is a Colombian-American fine artist based in Los Angeles and has been called a rising star in the contemporary art world with a national following. Martin describes herself as a painting anthropologist, working primarily with paint on canvas and paper to explore the human experience and the human form. Taking inspiration from Mid-Century Modernist masters, her distinctive style is underscored by the use of boldly brushed lines and punctuated bursts of color to imply tone and mood. She treats her subjects with an obvious reverence, and in a manner that captures their individuality and their dignity.

Ivester Contemporary

“Late Bloomer” — December 3 through January 14, 2023
Late Bloomer is a solo exhibition of new paintings and sculptures by Honduran-American artist Jasmine Zelaya. Zelaya has used portraiture to explore themes of identity throughout her career, specifically from the perspective of a first generation, Latinx artist. This newest body of work is heavily informed by memory, the awkwardness of youth, and the experience of assimilation. Graphic floral masks, a subtle head tilt, teary eyes, and explosive gradients of color all coalesce to capture the strong, mixed emotions of introspective teen years. Zelaya’s work explores themes of identity, assimilation and the brown body through a familial narrative rich with symbolism.

Flatbed

“31 BY 12” — December 10 through January 7, 2023
This annual group exhibition includes work by twelve artists: Adrian Armstrong, Miguel A. Aragon, Connie Arismendi, Jennifer Anderson, Pepe Coronado, Laura Berman, David Everett, Mike Hart, Peter Nickel, Heather Parrish, Maricela Sanchez, and James Sullivan. Thirty-one refers to the number of projects published during 2022. Each project might include over fifty unique monoprints while some projects are editioned etchings or lithographs.

Blanton Museum

Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art

Carlos Alonso, Que corrían mordiéndose [Those Who Run Biting Each Other], on display at the Blanton.

“Medieval X Modern” — December 10 through July 9, 2023
Many artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were fascinated by the styles and subjects of medieval art. Soaring cathedrals and ornate illuminated manuscripts impressed artists living in an era of increasing mechanization, while reverent visions of saints and heroes offered inspirational models in the midst of war and political violence. Along with representative medieval objects, Medieval X Modern presents the work of modern artists from Europe and the Americas who created prints, drawings, paintings, illustrated books, sculptures, and decorative objects informed by the spectacular craftsmanship and compelling historical figures of the Middle Ages. Drawing primarily from the Blanton’s permanent collection, Medieval X Modern offers a wide array of artistic responses to the European Middle Ages, including one of the museum’s most iconic works — Ellsworth Kelly’s "Austin."

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2 Hollywood celebrities tried some of Austin’s best sushi this week, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. 2 Hollywood celebrities dined at one of Austin’s best restaurants this week. While most Austinites cozied up at home this week, these famous spouses ate at an award-winning restaurant before a screening of their new film.

2. Austin's flagship Kendra Scott store transforms into mini-Museum of Ice Cream for Valentine's Day. Here's one sweet collaboration you won't want to miss — and it launches this weekend!

3. Texas scores top ranking among best states for dating, says new report. This Valentine’s Day is for the unattached, and it turns out Texas is a pretty great place to be single.

4. This Tesla rental service got me from Austin to Houston, despite my best efforts. A Tesla is a smooth ride, and the UFODrive self-service process ensures a smooth trip — if you pay attention.

5. Here are the top 5 things to do in Austin this weekend. Festive (fictional) funerals, demon barbers, live podcasts, and more reasons to venture out as the weather warms up this weekend.

Documentary Turn Every Page deep-dives into historic publishing partnership

Movie Review

There have been many famous partnerships in the world, from musical ones like Hall & Oates to business ones like Bill Gates and Paul Allen. But one of the more underrated partnerships is that between authors and editors, a relationship that can be mysterious for those not well versed in the process.

The new documentary Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb, takes deep dive into the ineffable bond between Caro, author of The Power Broker and four (and counting) biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gottlieb, his longtime editor at publishing company Knopf. Caro is notorious for taking his time with his books, releasing only one about every 10 years since 1974.

The film, directed by filmmaker (and daughter of Robert) Lizzie Gottlieb, features a variety of “talking head” interviews from people as diverse as Conan O’Brien, The New Yorker editor David Remnick, and President Bill Clinton, but cedes the majority of its time to hearing from the two men themselves. Both have lived extraordinary lives, but – despite their strong connection – in very different ways.

It would be fair to call Caro “obsessive,” as his career has focused on hefty non-fiction tomes devoted to just two men. The Power Broker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, 1,300+ page book about urban planner Robert Moses, goes into great detail about how Moses shaped the landscape of New York City, and not always for the better. He has also published four volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, all detailing Johnson’s life before he was president. The yet-to-be-published fifth volume is highly anticipated, to say the least.

In addition to the books of Caro, Gottlieb has edited books by Joseph Heller (famously providing the title number for Catch-22), John Cheever, Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Bill Clinton, and many others. Astonishingly, he has also had time to write eight of his own books, serve as editor of The New Yorker, program both the New York City Ballet and Miami City Ballet, and more.

Lizzie Gottlieb gives each man plenty of space to tell their own story, with perhaps a slight bias toward her father. Caro is 87 and Gottlieb is 91, yet neither shows any significant mental decline. In fact, their ability to recall the many important moments of their lives and continue to ruminate at a high level is intimidating, and a testament to their intellectualism.

Among the many amazing stories that made the cut of the film are how Gottlieb had to get Caro to cut 350,000 words – or around 700 pages – from The Power Broker just for it to be small enough to be bound, and another about how Caro, in his extensive research about LBJ, discovered just how Johnson literally stole a primary election in his first run for the Senate.

The mark of any good documentary is its ability to engage viewers who may not be intimately familiar with its central subjects. While it’s the professional lives of Caro and Gottlieb that are most notable, the film includes just enough information about their personal lives to make them into full human beings, unlocking what for many have been mysterious figures.

Turn Every Page may be most interesting to those who have read and loved Caro’s books over the past five decades, but there’s enough there to open the film wide for the uninitiated. The lives of Caro and Gottlieb are large, and the documentary provides a great glimpse into how they became that way.

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Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb is now playing in Austin at AFS Cinema.

Photo by Martha Kaplan / courtesy of Wild Surmise Productions, LLC and Sony Pictures Classics

The young author and editor in Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb.

Austin arcade plans a trailer park murder, and it's your job to solve the mystery

Is this a game to you?

We would say there’s been a murder at the arcade, but it hasn’t happened yet. Pinballz, an arcade, bar, restaurant, and overall gathering place for Austin nerds, is planning a crime for one guest to commit at its Lake Creek location on February 9, and many others will be implicated. Guests will gather in character for a sit-down Southern meal, learn about the crime, tease out the clues, and eventually apprehend one of their own in “Trailer Park Tragedy,” a murder mystery dinner game.

Dinner is a form of theater in itself, bringing together a cast of southern classics: barbecue brisket and ribs, charro beans, corn bread, potato salad, house salad, and Texas toast. This trailer park is vegetarian friendly, with black bean burgers available to swap out. A recent Halloween event featured “feetloaf” and spider sliders.

“Last Valentine's Day we did a really fun murder at a wedding,” says food and beverage manager Mitch Alloway. “And we kind of wanted to go a different direction with Valentine's Day [this year] … We thought this would be more fun and spunky and goofy. We decided to go trailer park status with a ‘PBR-sponsored event,’ basically. It's going to be barbecue; it’s going to be some fun cocktails … and it'll be a fun time.”

A downloadable game book of the same name and similar details appears in game company Night of Mystery’s catalog, but Pinballz is taking the game to the next level, allowing up to 60 guests and ensuring that everyone has a unique character; not so easy at a friend’s house, but no big deal for the Pinballz staff member who will be hosting the game.

Although it’s a little different than the role-playing games patrons may be used to during the bar’s weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions — since there is a prescribed series of events and a place to land at the end of the game — this event also gives visitors a chance to get into character and even costume.

“We get a good 80 percent diehard fan base that come in and they deck out, they dress up; They really get into their characters,” says Alloway. “And then there's usually that 15-20 percent that … it's their first time coming in or they're just not sure how to really feel the vibe.”

Characters from the original game sheet include a smooth-talking motorcycle buff, a few harried mothers (including a hairstylist and a grifter), and a security guard who never made it through the police academy but still wants to brag about his position of power. The game includes a disclaimer that offending players is high on its list of priorities.

Regardless of crime solving or method acting prowess, this kind of event exists to get people out of their shells and social circles. With a goal to work on, it’s a rare opportunity in a growing city to connect with others on a night out with none of the herculean sense of initiative it otherwise takes. Alloway guesses that 12-16 people come to every murder mystery, having met as strangers and progressed into friendships through enjoying the event together.

Pinballz, in addition to flooding the senses in the way only an arcade can, is a believer in this kind of night out and puts special effort into planning more throughout the year. There are murder mysteries about once a quarter, and starting at this event, each location will be staggering its mysteries. After the Lake Creek trailer park mystery, Pinballz Kingdom in Buda is hosting a Mardi Gras-themed mystery (February 23), and the original in North Austin is planning an '80s prom theme for April.

“We don't like to drench our calendars with these, because it does take time to plan, coordinate, organize — and we want to make sure that it's not something [that happens] every single week and then it takes away the creative aspect that our team members get involved [in],” says Alloway.

Aside from regularly scheduled murders and D&D adventures (spiced up with dice rolls to find out what $8 drink a patron will receive), the bars are also embarking on more comedy nights, and have started a popular live wrestling series. The chain also organizes whiskey tastings and tournaments for widely-played video games like Street Fighter and Super Smash Brothers.

“We are a very eclectic group of nerds,” says Alloway. “I'm a nerd for food and beverage, and events. We have some nerds that are for drama. We have some people that are nerds for Pokemon. We're basically a massive mob of nerds that have decided how we want to create this venue of like-minded people … where we can kind of take our passions and bring it into one weird unique setting.”

Pinballz will host “Trailer Park Tragedy” at its Lake Creek location (13729 Research Boulevard) on February 9 at 7 pm. Tickets ($35) for the 18-and-up event are available at pinballz.com.