They’ve made Austin richer.
For decades, painter Fidencio Durán, choreographer and dancer Heloise Gold and composer and musical director Allen Robertson have each added to the cultural fabric of the city.
On Monday, the trio will be welcomed to the Austin Arts Hall of Fame by the Austin Critics’ Table Awards. In its 23rd year, the Critics’ Table is an informal group of arts critics from the Austin American-Statesman and Austin Chronicle that each year recognizes outstanding achievement in the arts.
Stories serve as inspiration for the paintings and murals of Fidencio Durán. Stories he heard as a child, one of 10 whose parents were Mexican-American tenant farmers in Maxwell, a small community outside Lockhart. Or else it’s stories from a community which Durán then used as visual fodder for one of his many murals.
After graduating from the University of Texas in 1984, Durán codified his now characteristic illustrative painting style — gently elongated figures that occupy somewhat stylized scenes of everyday life, such as families having a celebratory afternoon meal outside or children walking to school.
One of Durán’s most prominent works is the nine-panel mural “The Visit,” which sprawls across the wall above a ticket counter at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Other murals by Durán are at Dell Children’s Medical Center, Montopolis Neighborhood Center and Austin Community College’s Riverside campus.
But one of the artist’s fondest moments was the 1996 unveiling of a mural at Zaragoza Recreation Center on Cinco de Mayo. Durán remembers the ceremony full of people from the Zaragoza neighborhood, mostly Mexican-American.
“I’ll always treasure their reactions of approval and delight when they saw the history of the park, center and community presented in the mural,” says Durán. “It was made even more memorable because I learned the importance of developing a public work as a servant to the community. To have families from the community continue to be appreciative for that work is a great feeling.”
Experimentation and collaboration form the foundation of whatever dancemaker Heloise Gold creates.
Originally from New York, Gold trained in ballet before shifting her attention to more daring dance styles, participating in some now-legendary experimental works such as Robert Wilson’s 12-hour opera “The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin.”
By the late 1970s, Gold had relocated to Austin, where she has since carved out a profile as an important creator of original performances. She’s choreographed a piece of 100 performers playing toy accordions, staged a performance on a large mound of soil and, above all, collaborated with an ever-widening circle of artistic partners from alt classical composers to experimental actors.
Gold infuses her work with a deep humanity and a sense of the beautiful — combined with the absurd and topped with a big pinch of humor.
In addition to her busy performance career, Gold also co-founded Art From the Streets in 1990, the annual benefit show and sale of art made by Austin’s homeless.
You could easily call Allen Robertson the music man.
Since landing here more than two decades ago to get a master’s degree in theater for youth at the University of Texas, Robertson has made an indelible imprint on Austin’s theatrical scene.
As musical director for myriad popular shows at Zilker Hillside Theater, Zach Theatre and Live Oak Theatre, among other companies, Robertson has delivered memorable productions of “Beehive,” “Love, Janis,” “Les Miserables” and “Ragtime.” He is often the invisible talent — to the audience, that is — whose creative vision and work is nevertheless fundamental.
As a composer, Robertson has written the ethereal “Jouét” and for youth audiences penned “Stone Soup” — just nominated for Outstanding Musical for the 2015 Austin Critics’ Table Awards — as well as the upcoming “Tortoise Vs. Hare” debuting at the Long Center in July.
Indeed it’s his work with theater for youth that netted Robertson his most distinctive recognition. He is a co-founder of “The Biscuit Brothers,” the music education show for youth since spun off as a PBS series, which garnered Robertson two Emmy Awards and one of his most treasured memories.
After a show a few years ago in Georgetown, Robertson met a woman in the audience who had immigrated to the United State five years before. With tears in her eyes, the woman told Robertson that she had watched “The Biscuit Brothers” in her early days in the U.S. and that it represented a very warm, friendly, positive view of what the nation could be — a place where she wanted to raise her son, who she now had brought to see the Biscuit Brothers live for the first time.
Says Robertson: “My main goal has always been simple: try to be useful and create something useful.”