Photo courtesy of Austin Outdoor Living Tour

One of the greatest parts of living in Austin is proximity to nature — even our apartment buildings generally overlook green spaces. It's such an integrated part of our home life, that many Austinites have year-round outdoor furniture, greenhouses, pools, and more to show off in the Outdoor Living Tour on May 6.

The self-guided tour hopes to inspire visitors beyond abstract styles, with a special focus on accessible design they can repeat at home. The featured landscape architects, designers, and builders will be onsite ready to explain the designs and answer questions, including requests for advice on similar projects.

Even though the tour emphasizes a chance to take home and apply the information, the designs aren't pedestrian. The spaces on the 2023 tour feature include large shade structures and outdoor rooms, a normal room without all four walls; smartly designed in-ground pools like one that tucks into a sloped yard by creating earthy steps and a retaining wall; and intuitive landscaping that creates relaxing nooks or divides a wide-open space into maximizing sections.

The Modern Architecture + Design Society (MA+DS) organizes this tour as well as the popular Modern Home Tour, which focuses more on entire homes — a bit harder to replicate, but still great inspiration for decorating and even interested homebuyers with a lot of flair. The same society organizes tours around the country and in Vancouver, including an annual Modern Home Tour in Houston.

Previous tours or tours in other cities may be viewed with short descriptions for extra inspiration without the drive.

Since the tour is self-guided, visitors can spend as long as they want at each house during the 6-hour window, and enter new spaces in any oder they choose. For safety, visitors must be 12 years old or older, except infants who can be carried.

Tickets ($30 for one or $50 for two, $15 for youth) are available via Eventbrite. A map of homes will be sent out 48 hours in advance of the tour on May 6, from 9 am to 3 pm.

Photo by Leonid Furmansky, courtesy of coXist

Austin Modern Home Tour extends to the Hill Country with spectacular 2-day showcase


Modern design lovers, architecture buffs, and those looking for a unique home builder will have a chance to explore even more homes in the Central Texas area at this year’s Austin Modern Home Tour. The Modern Architecture + Design Society (MA+DS) has announced the addition of a second day to their 14th annual showcase at the end of February, giving the bonus day its own name, the Hill Country Modern Tour.

Taking place on February 25 and 26, the goal of the two tours is to showcase the talent and hard work of architects, designers, and developers around the Central Texas area. To date, over 9,000 people have attended the event. The tours also serve as a networking and volunteer opportunity for students at Texas State University’s Interior Design program, the tour’s selected non-profit partner.

Visitors on the Austin leg of the self-guided tour will be able to view beautiful modern homes in Allandale, Bouldin Creek, Hyde Park, Zilker Park, and more, while the Hill Country Modern Tour will include homes in Driftwood, Wimberley, and Spicewood.

Cornerstone Architects, Tornbjerg Design, refuGe Design Studio, and Kelle Contine Interior Design are the Hill Country tour’s featured participants, while the full list of participants included on the Austin Modern Home Tour includes:

The Austin Modern Home Tour will take place on February 25 from 10 am to 6 pm, and the Hill Country Modern Tour will follow on February 26 from 10 am to 4 pm. Both tours are self-guided.

Tickets and more information about the tours can be found on Modern Architecture + Design Society’s website.

A modern home by coXist

Photo by Leonid Furmansky, courtesy of coXist

The Sculpture Residences are situated overlooking Dimension Gallery Sculpture Park in East Austin.

Photo courtesy of Nils Juul-Hansen

11 historic homes to explore on Preservation Austin’s 30th anniversary tour

Preserving Austin

If you’ve ever wanted a look inside some of Austin’s historic homes, now’s your chance. Preservation Austin just announced dates and tickets for their 30th Anniversary Homes Tour from April 22-23.

Now in its 70th year of operation, Preservation Austin is a nonprofit that seeks to honor the diverse culture and rich architectural history of the neighborhoods that have made Austin what it is today. The Homes Tour is one of their premier events, and the nonprofit is marking this milestone year with a special VIP Preview Party on April 18.

The party will provide an exclusive look at one of the “most charming featured homes” included in the tour while offering “new ways to engage with architectural enthusiasts and taste-makers,” according to a press release.

Past tours have explored neighborhoods such as Bouldin Creek and Castle Hill, as well as East Austin’s Rogers-Washington-Holy Cross Historic District. This year’s tour will showcase six homes in Central and East Austin on the first day, and five homes in West and South Austin on the second day.

Highlights of the tour include a 120-year-old converted train depot and an East 7th Street home designed and constructed by Genero P. Briones as a testament to Mexican-American heritage and innovation, now widely known as the Casa de Sueños.

Another featured home is a former boarding house that was once occupied by Herman Sweatt, the civil rights pioneer who challenged the Jim Crow ideology of “separate, but equal” in 1950 in order to attend the University of Texas School of Law. Other homes on the tour have been featured on Dwell and The New York Times.

Homes on the tour will be open from 10 am to 5 pm each day from April 22-23. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for Preservation Austin’s 30th Anniversary Home Tour can be found at preservationaustin.org.

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R&B singer Mélat epitomizes the independent Austin music experience in new album

local releases

Even though Mélat is always busy — appearing in seemingly every major community showcase — she hasn't released a new album in four years. That is, until today.

Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men — with an appropriately grandiose title for the R&B singer's prodigal return — is out on September 29, with 14 gooey tracks incorporating everything from trap beats to gospel harmonies. It follows up 2019's After All: Episode One, with similarly spacious orchestrations and a little more confidence this time around on the songwriter's part.

"I feel like [after] going through COVID and all the things that have happened in the past four years ... it's the dawning of a new era for me," says Mélat. "I feel like I've shed a significant amount of fear, and doubt, and all these things that as humans we have to work to get off of ourselves. It feels like a new beginning for me."

The title of this "foundational" album, in Mélat's words, reaches back to two EPs that the singer has since grown out of, but represented a similar feeling of self-definition as her first-ever releases. First was Canon Aphaea, then Canon Ourania; Both referenced Greek goddesses. This time, Metis — Zeus' first wife, a Titan goddess, and the embodiment of wisdom — was the inspiration.

M\u00e9lat Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal MenThe album cover ties in "Easter Eggs" from Black woman-owned brands: fashion by Savage X Fenty, Black Girl Magic wine by McBride Sisters Wine Company, and an Ethiopian necklace referencing the singer's heritage.Shot by Marshall Tidrick

The subtitle comes from humbler origins than it sounds; probably something she read on Wikipedia, Mélat says, but definitely borrowed nonetheless. The quote also gives a name to a track in which the singer speaks semi-candidly about false idols and the wisdom to duck away from the judgment of "mere mortals."

"I'm like a lot of people in that I can be my worst my own worst critic," she says. "I hate my speaking voice, but I put it on the album [because] my gut was telling me, no, this needs to be said. There are songs that were cut from the album [that were part of] the plan the whole time."

Much of Mélat's local pull comes from her transparency about being an independent artist, which she discusses often on social media and will surely expound upon more when the Austin chapter of Women in Music launches later this year, with her on the leadership team. Nothing about working without a label is foreign to Austin musicians (although the landscape is slowly growing), and the singer confirms that she doesn't "know any other way to do it," but hints of that freedom shine through some tracks.

"Canon Metis," the opening track, pieces together a sort of trailer for the rest of the album with atmospheric synths and spoken announcements by disembodied femme voices — a softly futuristic approach. But "Lambs to Lions" and "The Now" deliver nostalgia via backup vocals and instrumental stylings, while "I.D.M.T.L.Y. (Freestyle)" pares things down to a simple phone recording that the songwriter and her close collaborator, sound engineer, and manager, Pha The Phenom, chose not to develop any further.

No through-lines were questioned. Nothing needed to be justified, except to each other. Both have gotten into meditating, anyway, so it's all about feel.

"I feel like I've gathered all this wisdom," Mélat says. "You can't really trust the quote-unquote gods, which are the shiny things that will distract you ... and you can't really worry too much about the judgment of others, because everybody's just human. I need to do what feels right for me."

There is no tour planned to promote the album yet, but given the singer's track record, it won't be long until something is on the books. A music video for "So Help Me God," incorporates AI technology via Kaiber AI, will be released on October 4.

Listen to Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men on your favorite streaming platform.

Unique art sale champions thousands of works by Austin artists who may not have homes

art everywhere

The streets of Austin reveal a vibrant artistic spirit if you know where to look. Art From the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit uplifting unhoused artists, invites art lovers to discover this local creativity at the annual Art Show & Sale on October 21-22.

Art from the Streets sale

Photo courtesy of Art From The Streets

Onlookers look through hundreds of unique art pieces by unhoused Austinites.

Art From the Streets has announced its 31st Annual Art Show & Sale at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, best known for its holiday market. This two-day event will showcase thousands of original artworks from unhoused and at-risk artists in the Austin area, from compelling portraits to vibrant abstracts, all while supporting an amazing creative community.

Attending this event gives the Austin community the special opportunity to meet these artists, hear their stories, and purchase their one-of-a-kind creations, with 95 percent of the art sale proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

In turn, it provides platform for the artists to proudly display their works, coming into the arts scene in an official, marketable capacity. It brings visibility to their skills and lets them earn income from their passion.

"We believe that these artistic endeavors form a pathway to self-determination, and we invite the Austin community to join us this October in supporting these artists by making connections and purchasing some amazing art," said AFTS executive director Kelley Worden in a press release.

Volunteers form the backbone of AFTS by assisting with a wide range of tasks, from facilitating art creation sessions to helping with exhibition setup and more; the funds that AFTS collects through donations and art sales are directly funneled back into supporting these volunteers' efforts, providing art supplies, covering exhibition costs, and supplying other resources needed to uplift the unhoused artists in the Austin community.

The 31st Annual Art From the Streets Show & Sale will be held at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar from October 21-22. Attendance is free and open to the public, with a suggested $5 donation at the door to help support AFTS' mission of empowering unhoused artists. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Tasteful Austin ice cream shop starts crowdfunding to scoop up new cities

Tastes Like Profit

We're not sure how many licks it takes to get to a popular Austin ice cream shop into new markets, but a crowdfunding campaign gives fans a chance to find out.

Lick Honest Ice Creams, known for interesting, mature flavors (without getting too serious), has launched a campaign via MicroVentures that will allow onlookers a chance to support the business with small investments of $100 or more. Ice cream never goes out of style, and the company is hoping to appeal not just to repeat customers, but anyone who thinks the sweet treat has growth potential.

Although this could be a long-term holding, the root idea is to eventually trade back the stake for a financial gain once the company has grown. In less than two days (since the campaign launched on September 28), Lick has already sold stakes worth more than $66,000 from 90 investors.

“This isn’t just an investment in terms of capital," said CEO Anthony Sobotik in a news release. "It’s an opportunity to own a piece of your favorite ice cream shop, shared memories, and a piece of Lick’s future. By investing, you’re supporting our dream and commitment to spread the Lick experience further, enabling Lick to support family-owned farms in a more significant way, and ensuring more people can truly know what they’re licking."

The ice cream shop has been in Austin since its inception in 2012, and now operates three stores in the area, plus stores in San Antonio, Houston, and College Station. The total store count is currently at eight, with a ninth coming to Houston's Autry Park "soon," according to the website. The release states intentions to use the crowdfunding to "build more scoop shops and expand into new markets," but does not specify which cities the brand is eyeing, or even if they are in Texas or farther away.

Some of the flavors pay homage to their Texas roots, like "Caramel Salt Lick," "Hill Country Honey & Vanilla Bean," and "Texas Sheet Cake." It is easy to see where ingredients come from, as suppliers are listed on the menu. Seasonal flavors right now include creative twists like "Back Porch Iced Tea" and "Fig & Fromage," sticking to Lick's script of interesting and local ingredients. The menu also includes a small number of dairy-free flavors.

“From our first scoop shop opening in 2011 to where Lick is now, it’s been an extraordinary journey. We’ve now served over a million scoops, and with each one, we’ve shared our commitment to and love for thoughtfully crafted, ethically, and sustainably-sourced and produced ice cream,” said Sobotik.

“But beyond just charming your taste buds, our flavors tell stories," he continued. "Those are the stories of favorite dishes, the family and friends we shared them with, and the farmers we work with. It’s a special connection that ice cream grants us, and it’s what really makes this our story, not just Lick’s story.”

More information and links to contribute to the campaign are available at microventures.com.