The art of Austin: People’s Gallery puts focus on local artists

City Hall or art gallery? In Austin, we have both in the same space.

The annual People’s Gallery at Austin City Hall opens its 2018 exhibition this weekend, featuring works from 102 Austin-area artists in an array of media. The free exhibition, the work of the city’s Cultural Arts Division, aims to spotlight local artists and promote understanding and enjoyment of the arts.

Arts educator and artist Teruko Nimura, artist and preparator John Sager and St. Edward’s University art professor Tammie Rubin selected the works from about 1,300 entries from more than 320 artists.

We asked exhibition coordinator Suzanne Burton about how the People’s Gallery comes together.

This is the 14th iteration of the exhibition — how has it grown and changed over the years?

With the advent of new technologies, we have seen an annual increase in the number of digital and new media artwork submissions. While the People’s Gallery exhibition has typically been rooted in more traditional mediums, we are adding more and more artworks each year that integrate technology such as audio/video elements, computer-generated algorithms and more.

Austin is the only city in North America with a UNESCO City of Media Arts designation, and the innovative, multidisciplinary work from many of our artists underscores why that is a fitting accolade.

What do the selection panelists consider when choosing works for the exhibit?

Each year, our panelists consider the overall quality and merit of the artwork. They also look for work that reflects cultural diversity; at the local and/or national reputation of the artist; and whether the artwork submitted is in the collection of a museum or arts institution in Austin.

Have you had repeat artists over the years?

We have had many repeat artists throughout the years, but we typically average about 50 percent new exhibitors annually. This year, that number is actually 62 percent.

When someone comes to see exhibition, what should they expect?

When visiting City Hall, the first thing visitors typically notice is the unique and beautiful architecture of the building. Designed by award-winning architect Antoine Predock, City Hall is a magnificent artwork in and of itself. The art displayed as part of the People’s Gallery activates the space and highlights the abundance and diversity of Austin’s artists.

Are there any overarching themes you see in the works that were chosen this year?

While there is no singular theme, color seems to be front and center with many of the works this year. Overall, the presentation offers a mix of abstract and figurative work.

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