Public art is an indulgence. It is the makeup of our cities; the mascara that makes our eyes or a neighborhood, pop. This past weekend in Austin, Texas we celebrated art with the annual East Austin Studio Tour, affectionately known as E.A.S.T. Among all the activities, public art made its statement with a strong underlying theme running through each piece. Undoubtedly all art has its individualistic qualities that make them unique, but what delineates public art from the others is that it hopes to interact with the civilian, not one but all.
While events spread throughout the neighborhood, there were a series of public installations that despite their physical differences all seemed to hold one conjoining factor, they were placed in areas people did not go. They were in parks that were underutilized and a series of sculptures hid themselves in the depths of a forest near Austin’s center.
As part of the Tempo Project, the placement the piece, Las Piñatas, was probably the most well traversed area of all the installations. Along Town Lake and along a popular running trail, people traffic in the area is not uncommon. However the traffic condenses itself towards the water and the running path that separates itself from a small meadow via a line of trees. The placement of three simple sculptures turned the meadow into a place to go, a destination and a walk-through with purpose. Families on walks, art seekers, and even lone dog walkers found themselves moving about the pieces before commencing their common walk.
Tempo: Omission also had a strong presence during the festival. Its local was anything but used. The park it was placed in was land locked by freeway and street on one end and train and creek at the other. This created a unique haven to house the art as well as bring people to a part of East Austin usually forgotten.
The second exhibition held all of its pieces in one place. This is field constructs. This park/forest/bog is easily missed. Only a small sign introduced the exposition and the parking was informal at best. The location was methodical, using public art to discover a unique landscape within the inner city limits. The art became more than itself; these pieces had to be found, they were discovered as you discovered an Austin you have not yet known.
Art itself is diverse. You have the kind that hangs in your living room and the other kind that hangs in a gallery; then there’s pottery, glass blowing, sculpture, architecture… where the list ends is unique to you. When art is moved out of a museum and placed in a park it becomes public. Public art is not needed. Like mascara to our eyelashes, it accentuates, it does not cover and does not change its surroundings. It amplifies them. This weekend’s sculptures brought people not just to East Austin but to unique areas that have been forgotten. E.A.S.T. reminds us of art as a unifier. Bringing people of different areas together and bringing people to the landscape of their city thus building new dialogue and diversity.
All images by Nicole Stankus
Nicole Stankus happily finds herself as an architecture student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her interests lie past academia, expanding the idea of an architecture of buildings to include the architecture of society and people. How people interact with the city they live in is of particular interest to her and her writing. Seeing the world passionately and always seeking moments of urban ecstasy, Nicole looks to highlight the magical moments of great cities.