With its droves of crowds and clatter of buzz, the East Austin Studio Tour is both a boon and a frustration for the neighborhood’s indie galleries.
It’s a boon because the annual tour of artists’ studios, businesses, galleries and project spaces draws tens of thousands to the neighborhood and spotlights the enormous creative activity and self-starting enterprise that happens just steps to the east of downtown Austin.
But beyond the tour each autumn, how to get people to remember that East Austin is a year-round home to several galleries?
Saturday, a quartet of progressive East Austin galleries host “Frame,” an afternoon and evening of coordinated programs, the first of what is hoped to be regular event.
Working together, Mass Gallery, Tiny Park Gallery, Co-Lab Projects and Big Medium will offer film screenings, artist talks, live music and other special happenings around new exhibits debuting at each of the galleries.
The quartet of galleries has coordinated as East Austin Arts and branded itself with a web site — www.eastaustinarts.org — that offers maps and a roster of activities.
Shea Little, director of Big Medium, the organization that founded the East Austin Studio Tour 10 years ago, says that the impetus that gave rise to “Frame” is a bit of a blast from the past.
After all, the first EAST in 2003 included just a handful of addresses. “Like the first (EAST) tour, this is a very focused showing of what’s going on,” Little said. “It’s a way to remind people that, yes, there’s plenty going on all year round (in East Austin).”
Big Medium will debut its new digs in Canopy, the new complex of studios and gallery spaces that’s just opened on Springdale Road, carved from a connecting set of five large warehouses.
Big Medium will play host to two exhibits by independent curators. Some Canopy artists will open their studios as well.
Saturday’s event dovetails with the first anniversary of Tiny Park Gallery. After a year of running an in-house gallery, Brian Willey and Thao Votang opened a venue in a storefront space on Navasota Street, near a busy and burgeoning cluster of restaurants on East 11th Street.
“The kind of regular programming we do in our space is a bit different than what happens (during EAST),” Wiley said. “This (past) year and the new space has been good for us and we’ve gotten a lot of new traffic. But we want to spread the word that we’re here year round.”
For “Frame,” Tiny Park will debut a new show of collaborative work by Jason Creps and Joel Ross. The artists create a complex series of signs emblazoned with enigmatic phrases which they clandestinely install in random public places for the public to discover. They then create large-scale photographs of the signs in situ.
Creps and Ross will give a talk about their work at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Also new to the neighborhood, the Mass Gallery — run by an artist collective — has had a busy time since opening its new space during the last EAST tour in November. Mass’ quarters in a converted warehouse behind H-E-B on East Seventh Street include a few artist studios as well as a 1,500-square-foot gallery, the scene of a busy and popular roster of inventive exhibits and happenings. (The building is also home to the aerial dance group Sky Candy and the hot glass makers at East Side Glass Studio.)
“(Saturday’s event) is kind of a big coming out,” says Aaron Dubrow, one of the Mass collective. “It’s intended to be creative place-making. There’s a lot going on artistically in East Austin, but sometimes it can seem pretty insular. This is way to open the doors more.”
When: noon to midnight Saturday
Information and maps: www.eastaustinarts.org
Exhibitions at participating galleries:
“The F.R. Etchen Collection: Selected Works and More” and “Fahamu Pecou: All Dat Glitters Ain’t Goals,” Big Medium at Canopy, 916 Springdale Road
“Brooke Gassiot: The Stories Our Neurons Tell,” Co-Lab Projects, Project Space, 613 Allen St.
“Not How It Happened: Joel Ross and Jason Creps,” Tiny Park Gallery, 1101 Navasota St.
“Wally,” MASS Gallery, 507 Calles St.
Noon to 6 p.m., Urban lawn games, MASS Gallery
“The Edge of Animation Station,” young artist stop-motion animation activities, Big Medium
2 p.m., artists’ talk with Joel Ross and Jason Creps, Tiny Park Gallery
2 to 6 p.m., Brooke Gassiot’s “Scar Party,” Co-Lab’s Project Space
3 to 5 p.m. Monofonus music showcase, MASS Gallery
7 to 10 p.m., opening receptions at all galleries
8 to 10 p.m., outdoor film screenings at MASS Gallery
10 p.m. to midnight, closing party, Big Medium