Quantcast
Rendering courtesy of Waterloo Greenway

Kristen Gunn — one of the only two Creek Show designers not on a company team and, not coincidentally, one of the only two Creek Show designers who stayed up working all night — appears on a video call upside down against an ethereal white background. It looks like she’s calling from bed, but it’s reflective and glittering. Less glamorous than that, it’s a porta potty floor.

Gunn and Laura Salmo, “mom friends,” teamed up to create the most subversive Creek Show installation of 2022 (and possibly its entire history), dropping $10,000 and purposefully marring the entrance to the path with seemingly unremarkable worksite commodes.

This year's Creek Show, running from November 11-20, doesn’t have one official theme, but it's easy to see threads in the use of Day-Glo colors, neon or faux-neon tubing, and lots of reflective light. Waller Creek itself ties everything together, with a clearer path than the more meandering one through the architectural portion of the park in 2021. The water moves under glowing pieces like self-supporting pants under blacklights, giant glowing dragonflies, and abstract shapes.

By nature of following a stream, a visitor is bound to run into liminal spaces. Sculptures are tucked under and around bridges, lit only in the dark, as the water rushes away and tens of thousands of visitors pass. This impermanence takes root in “Portal Potties,” in two ways. First, the inspiration.

“The state of downtown Austin right now is construction,” says Salmo. “I look out here, and all I see is porta potties on every corner. More than Starbucks.” This elicits a surprised laugh from Gunn, who Salmo later scolds for impropriety, offscreen from inside the Portal Potties. Irony abounds. (If the Creek Show has any year-to-year theme, it’s the environment, and Salmo points out that these durable structures are also commonly associated with disaster relief.)

The second liminal element is in the name. During a preview the night before the show opened, Gunn dressed up as a custodian and handed out paper refraction glasses. She manned the single door in the back that opens up into the “portal” — a line of five porta potties with no interior borders, brightly lit and austere inside — invisible from the entrance.

It really does look like a row of temporary event amenities, except that no one walks in the doors spilling white light out toward the entrance. But people do walk out. It is figuratively a portal to an altered mental state, and literally the transition from the regular world to the show.

“[When] I first decided that we wanted to try to put in a bid for the Creek Show this year, I told [Salmo], ‘The only way I want to do the Creek Show is if we get to open the show, and we do something totally insane,” says Gunn. Both women are creative professionals, but this is the team’s first major project together, and it’s not representing a company with resources, tools, and training to build avant-garde structures.

“It's such an honor to have been picked,” she continues. “[The first meeting] was very humbling. Like, ‘I'm an impressive architect! We're the architecture conglomerate of Hootie-Hoo, whatever it is.’ I think of weird things in my hammock in my backyard.”

A stipend from the Creek Show helped, but the Portal Potties went significantly over budget. Gunn calculates the damages as equal to “multiple house payments,” although, at the same time, muttering she does not want to know. In addition to being the underdog team, so to speak, they accidentally chose a nearly impossible task — instead of constructing something from scratch, they learned to alter structures that are designed to be nearly indestructible. (Even a company assembler struggled to fulfill their initial vision.) The portal also had to hold up under 70,000 visitors walking through, by Gunn’s estimate.

Aside from the campy concept and deceptively difficult installation, the Portal Potties are beautiful. Lined with mirrors and diffraction grating, and viewed through disorienting glasses, the portal turns into a high-concept funhouse or a low-budget infinity room. The white light and white walls shimmer with rainbows, and it fully removes the viewer from downtown Austin, before they step out into the show.

The house payments have not gone wildly astray, since the team hopes the structure will be rented out after the show, or perhaps bought by “an eccentric tech millionaire-billionaire.” It’s about the size of two teardrop camper trailers combined, and there’s no place like Austin to toss it up on Airbnb.

In fact, as the team continues working together, Gunn and Salmo are forming grand plans for more immersive works including a house to rent out. Instead of selling tickets to an immersive experience, to be rushed through among strangers, visitors will get to live in the space. Gunn imagines refashioning the Portal Potties as an elevator entrance in the Airbnb house, now a mansion. “What's in the sub-basement of a porta potty? “I guess it would be, like, the rainbow factory.”

The Creek Show is open at Waller Creek through November 20, from 6-8 pm most days. A full schedule and more information about each installation is available at waterloogreenway.org.

Rendering courtesy of Waterloo Greenway

A rendering of the “Portal Potty” installation that comes to life at Creek Show.

Photo courtesy of Blue Genie Art Bazaar

The holiday shopping genie returns to Austin to fulfill one-stop browsing wishes

Best Wishes

Sometimes it feels like the only way all the holiday shopping can get done is if a genie steps in. Austin’s Blue Genie Art Bazaar (BGAB) isn’t far from that fantasy; no one can choose for you, but the curated artisan goods narrow down the possibilities, gathering a mix of people-pleasing and hyper-specific gifts under one roof.

November 18 kicks off the 22nd iteration of the bazaar, with nearly 200 vendors that generally steer clear of holiday clichés, focusing mostly on art, snacks, and home goods. It would be easiest to shop for friends and family who love decorating their homes and kitchens, but shoppers will also find accessories, toys, and sometimes even experiences.

The website divides the vendors into categories that make it easy to plan a trip with shoppers who like a plan, although seeing what stands out in person is at least half the fun. One step further into perfectly streamlined shopping, personal shoppers will make selections for a fee of 10% of the price of the item a home shopper selects (capped at $25).

Three of the four BGAB founders — all artists themselves — sent out some ideas to their nice list contacts:

  • Dana Younger recommends soap by Fleegal Farms, tea towels by Victrola and Kimball Prints, chocolate by Madhu, tea from White Cloud and SESA, and shirts by Supermaggie.
  • Kevin Collins recommends artworks by Dan Grissom and Danika Ostrowski, and accessories by JNA Designs.
  • Chris Coakley recommends art by JCR Work, Eya Claire, and another founder, Rory Skagen.

“As always, this year’s Blue Genie Art Bazaar will be filled with some of the best work of our local artists,” said Younger in a press release. “And, as always, we’ll have a mix of recognized favorites along with exciting new artists and plenty of items to surprise and inspire."

In 2021, Blue Genie’s efforts were acknowledged by Austin Chronicle readers, who voted it to the top of the Austin Gifts/Souvenirs category. In addition to a well-balanced curation, it offers a very shopper-friendly experience with free parking and admission, and a snack bar. Shoppers can feel good about supporting local artisans as well as the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central and South Texas, which receives a portion of every Monday’s sales.

The 22nd annual Blue Genie Art Bazaar will be held in the Blue Genie Art building at 6100 Airport Boulevard, from 10 am to 10 pm daily until December 24. The last day, Christmas Eve, closes at 6 pm. More information and shopping links are available at bluegenieartbazaar.com.

Photo by Jennifer M. Ramos

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar gathers miraculous music lineup and 200 artisans

How Bazaar

Austinites are lucky as the holidays roll around. The city is brimming with creatives, yes, but also organizers who make sure these artisans can get their products in front of as many people as possible. No one takes this as far as Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, back again this December 17-23.

More than 200 artists — the most the event has ever curated — will gather for the shopping portion of the bazaar, many of whom carry wall art, pottery, and wood crafts. Much of the variety comes from different styles of similar arts, but there are outliers on the roster: The Austin Museum of Popular Culture will be there (presumably selling collectible posters or museum experiences), along with Crysalis Hammocks, Got Toys, Latika Beauty, and Luna Tigre Candles, to name a few.

The bazaar has been around so long that this year’s featured artist represents the second generation of a family’s work at the festival. Caya Crum, from Fort Worth, went to the bazaar for “nearly a decade and a half” with her parents, and this year created the original marketing materials for the event. Although the streak is impressive for a single family, it’s just a portion of the event’s history, which started in 1975 when country singer Lucinda Williams lamented that artists would not have a comfortable place to sell wares for Christmas.

Shoppers have the other half of the bazaar to look forward to as well, with live performances by two dozen local musical acts. Highlights include Latin Grammy nominee Gina Chávez, longtime Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, rockabilly guitarist Rosie Flores, and one of Austin’s more recent breakouts, Sir Woman.

In 2022, the bazaar adds a second stage, turning this annual live music celebration into something more like a festival. A press release promises an “even more intimate music experience” at the second stage, called “Stage Side.” Revelers can stop at the full bar or the “mobile honky tonk,” Hello Trouble Hall. This year is also the first time the bazaar is held indoors since 2019, and the first season that allows online buyers.

“The Stage Side will feature up-and-coming musicians and solo acts ... some of which have never played the Armadillo,” said booking agent Nancy Coplin in a press release. “For 33 years, I have had the honor of booking the music for this iconic event. We are so fortunate to be able to showcase both Austin music legends and upcoming artists who are rising stars. I am very excited that we are kicking off this year’s event with Gary P. Nunn, whose famous song ‘London Homesick Blues’ resonates the spirit of the Armadillo World Headquarters with the line, ‘I wanna go home to the Armadillo.’”

Producer and general manager Anne Johnson pointed out, “It’s the best live music deal in town…$2.25 a band is hard to beat anywhere! No other festival in Austin gives you more value for your money.”

The timing of the Christmas Bazaar also overlaps the majority of Chanukah, which starts on December 18. (It also ends on Festivus … just saying.)

Tickets ($12 for the day, $47 for the season) are available at armadillobazaar.com. The sale and festival takes place at the Palmer Events Center from December 17-23, 11 am to 8:30 pm.

Photo courtesy of Showroom

New designer showroom brings Austinites closer to their new favorite brands

Meet Your Maker

Although clothes are meant to express personality, wearers rarely get to meet designers. Showroom, a new store opening on November 10 at Domain Northside, brings a more personal touch to a luxe shopping experience, inviting designers to make appearances and closing the gap between maker and wearer. This is the store's second location, joining the original on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

The aesthetic focuses on feminine American, Scandinavian, and British design; a comb through Showroom’s catalog shows the muted colors, knitwear, and practical shapes someone might expect from this particular blend of sensibilities, but with little dips into exuberance in the form of a feathered hem or a metallic fabric.

It’s a unique mix for Austin, and the store plans to break ground in bringing many brands to the city for the first time. As the name suggests, it is a store, but visiting to browse will get many Austinites acquainted with unfamiliar styles and designers they love. (Although, ironically, it was a figurative name when the business was initially just e-commerce.)

Still, the curation is not obscure. Visitors might spot Victoria Beckham, Derek Lam, Joseph, and most of the silhouettes are overall traditional. Sizing appears to be inclusive, to a predictable limit; there are a few 2X items available on the online store that may or may not fit true-to-size. The store offers styling services by appointment, which automatically enrolls customers in a VIP program providing first access to new styles and even custom orders.

The showroom itself is designed in a modern and neutral style, with lots of whites and golds, by North Carolina design firm Lucy & Company. The more standout materials — custom oak and quartzite along the counter and cabinets — come from Austin’s own Edwood Studios, which, as a press release points out, particularly values sustainably sourced wood.

Showroom founder Erica Hanks is a paragon of the simple-but-not-uptight style found at the store, and has been featured by the New York Times. She developed her styling ethos working with athletes, and now works with other professionals in mind.

More information about Showroom is available at shopshowroom.com. The grand opening is scheduled for November 10 from 4-7 pm.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

2 Austin suburbs cash in among the richest places in Texas for 2023

Where the 1 percent live

Central Texans wanting a glimpse into the lives of the 1 percent won't have to travel far to get a peek. Lakeway has been renamed the fifth richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study. Southlake, in the DFW, took the top spot, reprising its past success.

HomeSnacks.com has been ranking cities, neighborhoods, counties, and states across America for more than five years, using data from the Census Bureau, OpenStreetMaps, the FBI, and other sources. For this year's study, released January 18, the website compared 355 cities with populations of at least 5,000 people to determine where "the richest of the rich" live.

With a median income of $239,833, and an unemployment rate of just 2.2 percent, it's no surprise to see Southlake flashing cash around. HomeSnacks shows the median home price for Southlake at $697,000, but as of this writing, Realtor.com lists the city's median home price listing at $1.3 million.

Lakeway came in fifth, with a median home price of $481,900 and a median income of $142,566. Bee Cave, where the median income is $100,179, moved up four spots from 13th last year to ninth this year. Unfortunately, although both cost a pretty penny to stick around, neither made the site's Top 10 Best Places To Live In Texas, which several of the cities in other metro areas did, ostensibly getting more bang for their buck.

It appears that wealth is not only moving into Texas, but moving around, as well. Heath is up 8 spots from last year, breaking into the Top 10 at No. 7, followed by Highland Village at No. 8, up a huge 17 rankings.

Elsewhere in Texas ...

The Houston suburb of Bellaire came in at No. 2 with a whopping median income of $211,202 and other signifiers of affluence, moving up two spots from last year's rankings. Pearland, with a median income of $107,941 is the only other Houston-area city to rank in the top 20, squeaking in at number 20.

San Antonio's top spot was Alamo Heights. Ranked third, the area had a median income of $147,475 and an even lower unemployment rate than Southlake and Bellaire at 1.4 percent. The median home price on the list was similar to the cities that beat it, too, despite the very different income bracket, at $614,000. Bexar and Comal county cities Fair Oaks Ranch and Bulverde came in 16th and 17th. Median income in Fair Oaks Ranch is $127,917, while it's just $100,419 in Bulverde.

Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs dominated the list overall; a total of 13 cities in the area cashed in with a top-20 ranking. Lucas, a Collin County suburb with a population of 7,612 in the 2020 census, came in fourth, moving up from fifth place last year. With a poverty rate of just 1.1 percent and a median income of $159,563, the (comparatively) tiny little town is a haven for the well-heeled. Falling into the "more than comfortable" range are Coppell (No. 6), Heath (No. 7), and Highland Village (No. 8). HomeSnacks' 10th through 15th places are occupied by Keller, Royse City, Corinth, Krum, Rockwall, and Roanoke, in that order.

Texas' top 10 richest cities for 2023 are:

1. Southlake
2. Bellaire
3. Alamo Heights
4. Lucas
5. Lakeway
6. Coppell
7. Heath
8. Highland Village
9. Bee Cave
10. Keller

Visit HomeSnacks' website to see the top 100 richest cities in Texas, download the full list and rankings, or search to see where your city came in on the list.

Comedy heavyweights can't find the funny in racially-charged You People

Movie review

While the idea of systemic racism is a generally accepted fact in American society, a more indefinable concept is the cultural biases that people hold. It can be easy to spot someone who wears their racism on their sleeves, but sometimes a prejudice only reveals itself when someone is confronted with a world that is not their own.

This idea is attempted to be played for laughs in the new Netflix comedy You People. Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a 35-year-old stockbroker/aspiring podcaster who has yet to meet the right woman, much to the chagrin of his mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He has a meet-cute with Amira (Lauren London), a graphic designer, when he mistakes her car for an Uber.

While Ezra and Amira bond quickly over a number of shared likes, it’s the ingrained beliefs of their parents that threaten to stand in their way. Shelley and dad Arnold (David Duchovny) are a Jewish couple who either rely on Black stereotypes or go overboard in their attempts to relate to Amira. Meanwhile, Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), want her to stay true to her Black Muslim roots, and do all they can to discourage the relationship.

Directed by Kenya Barris and written by Barris and Hill, the goal of the film – to shed a funny light on how awkward it can be when people of different races spend time in each other’s spaces – is clear, but the execution is sorely lacking.

The first mistake they make is that the film is almost exclusively focused on Ezra; while Amira gets a small introduction prior to meeting Ezra, there’s never a true exploration of who she is or what she wants outside of her relationship with him. Consequently, their bond is never believable; there appears to be little chemistry existing between the two, and any moments that might endear them to the audience are yada-yadaed for the sake of expediency.

The second is the strange way in which the film’s biggest star – Murphy – is withheld until 20-30 minutes into the movie, introduced in a lackadaisical way, and then given precious few opportunities to showcase his comic skills. Barris and Hill can never seem to find a great way to use the legendary comedian, giving him tepid scenarios that don’t come close to eliciting the big laughs for which he is known.

Ultimately, the film feels more like a series of barely-connected situations than a cohesive story. Any incisiveness that might come from putting the two racially- and religiously-disparate families together is lost because the filmmakers constantly jump from scene to scene in search of laughs. You’d think that Barris, who knows the value of establishing characters from sitcoms like Black-ish, would have figured out how to do that by now, but the film flails its way through its nearly two-hour running time.

Hill, as star, co-writer, and co-producer, is obviously the driving force behind the film, and he is given plenty of time to dole out his brand of comedy. London is likable enough, but we never get to know her character well enough to fully judge her performance. The wealth of talent on the supporting side – including Murphy, Louis-Dreyfus, Long, Duchovny, Sam Jay, Rhea Perlman, Molly Gordon, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, Elliott Gould, and Mike Epps – is mostly wasted.

Finding comedy in race relations has been done many times in movies and on TV, and can be a winner if done properly. The story of You People can never find its footing, opting for a haphazard approach that doesn’t make good use of its greatest assets.

---

You People debuts on Netflix on January 27.

Photo by Tyler Adams/Netflix

Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy in You People.

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Upscale bowling alley rolls into Cedar Park

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Sometimes it feels like Austinites always have to be doing something, and that's what makes this town beautiful. In the spirit of not taking drinks sitting down, Spare Birdie Public House is rolling into Cedar Park (1400 Discovery Blvd) for a soft opening on February 1, and a grand opening on February 20. A bit like an upscale Top Golf or neighborhood bowling alley with an incredibly chic interior, the bar and restaurant serves its "chef-driven" food among bowling lanes, augmented reality and indoor golf setups, billiard tables, yard games, and more. The team that started Goodfolks in Georgetown are bowling over alley cliches like hotdogs and fries with lamb meatballs, grilled oysters, and Wagyu sliders.

The Belterra Plaza out in Dripping Springs is collecting new restaurants left and right, making itself a fast burger destination. Mighty Fine Burgers opened its seventh location — the first that is freestanding — in a huge 4,000-square-foot space at 165 Hargraves Drive, Suite T100. The simple menu sticks to the tried-and-true with The Classic Texas Burger, crinkle fries, onion rings, and Blue Bell milkshakes. In January, monthly specials shake up those base elements: a pimento cheese burger and a coconut cream pie shake. The new location is the first in Dripping Springs.

Theres been some buzz about burgers at the Buzz Mill recently, with the very recent departure of the vegan food truck Plow Burger. The buns were barely cold before the Buzz Mill opened its own burger truck, some vegan and some not. The grand opening coincided with the bar and coffee venue's tenth anniversary, on January 20. These are not beefy burgers; the thin patties leave plenty of room for toppings, and there are lots of other snacks to fill up on, like loaded fries, meatless chicken nuggets, and extra patties. The truck is open daily from 11 am to midnight.

Other News and Notes

Chefs Michael Fojtasek and Amanda Turner, of Austin's celebrated Southern restaurant Olamaie, are throwing a new chef series in the fryer on January 31, emphasizing Southern cooking styles while utilizing Texan ingredients. "Southern Exposure" is scheduled for the last Tuesday of every month, and there are three on the calendar already. Chef Turner, a James Beard semi-finalist and CultureMap's reigning rising star chef of the year, is taking the lead while collaborating with Fojtasek. Tickets ($100) available at olamaieaustin.com, benefitting the Jeremiah Program.

Nothing gold can stay, and unfortunately that means Loro's golden ramen noodles are ephemeral on the menu. For the month of February, the "Asian smokehouse" is offering two types of ramen. Both serve up a unique Balinese curry broth, one with brisket and one with grilled prawns. These winter items pair also include ajitama egg, green onion, and sesame, as the more traditional elements. Loro does not accept reservations.

If you can't afford rent in Austin, have you tried, like, not buying coffee? That might work if you were used to Proud Mary Coffee Roasters, an Australian company with an Austin cafe offering just 22 super-luxe cups of $150 joe here and Portland, Oregon. It seems like it's worth the price, given its award-winning flavor and very expensive source beans, but in case that's still not in your budget, a golden ticket giveaway may cover it. Purchase a Hartmann presale tin ($48) online on January 26 to enter.

The Bloody Mary Festival is now almost two weeks away, so people who love drinking their tomatoes should consider snatching up a ticket soon (although ticket sales will technically be open until the day of the event, if they last). On February 11 from 10:30 am to 6 pm, bartenders are pulling out all the stops, or at least all the toppings. Attendees will vote for participating local bars to choose the best cocktail. Tickets (starting at $49.50) available at thebloodymaryfest.com.