never be New York, or L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, Miami or Houston.
Austin a small city; and although that doesn’t mean that our
aspirations should be small, it does mean we should be realistic with
what we can and should do. Perhaps part of the current problem with the
visual arts in Austin is that we’re trying to jump steps, eat the cake
before even mixing the ingredients.
Maybe we need new models
to work towards. Smaller, more attainable and sustainable models. Maybe
we should look at smaller cities that somehow manage to have things we
city, if you count the whole bi-state metro area. What does Kansas City
have that we don’t, other than an NFL franchise? Well, (1) cheap real
estate, (2) a more stable group of artists and (3) more distance from
Houston, it seems.
(1) A friend has a theory about why
illustration and small-scale drawings were pretty much the
institutional style of Austin for a while: real estate isn’t cheap
here. Studio space is expensive, especially considering the cost of
living in this city. So large scale sculpture, painting, installation
and anything that can’t be accomplished in a cubicle-sized space goes
out the window. The exception to that have been the MFA students, who
get free studios, making people like Buster Graybill, Jules Buck Jones,
Jarrod Beck, Scott Proctor, etc. Which brings us to…
People are constantly leaving Austin. The other side of that coin is
that people are constantly moving to Austin as well. It’s a mixed
blessing. It’s easy to get here and get excited about the possibilities
and it’s also easy to become disenchanted, realize that there is a very
low ceiling in our small pond, and move away. The result is that
there’s barely any historical memory about how to improve the scene or
understand the patterns and cycles we semi-regularly get stuck in.
(3) But more and more, I’m beginning to think that the biggest problem
with Austin arts is proximity to Houston. We really just can’t compete!
They have better museums, better galleries, better studio spaces,
better artist services programs, better contact with the outside world
(hub airport!), better residencies, and so many more rich people… So
instead of trying to, then perhaps we really should try to think of
ways that we can can grow in Houston’s shadow. Perhaps it’s time to
hang up the leftover 80s punk attitude Austin that makes us want to
tell everywhere (except for Brooklyn, aka "Little Austin") to fuck off
and shove it. Maybe it’s time to go into a hippier phase, where we try
instead to build bonds with other small cities and create a network of
the provinces that doesn’t have to be provincial.
I’m not sure how it first began, but a pretty awesome partnership has
sprung up between these two organizations. The first sign of it for
Austinites was OKMTN’s current show SLOW COOKED (curated by Sterling
Allen) which included Marcus Cain, Michael Converse, Colin Leipelt,
Kacy Maddux, and James Woodfill .
And now this weekend, Austinites invade KC, with TWO shows, presented
under the banner of Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture
TEXPOSÉ: NEW ART FROM AUSTIN at Paragraph
gallery, curated by Kansas City-based painter Grant Miller and
Charlotte Street Foundation Associate Director Kate Hackman, features
the work of six Austin artists selected through image reviews and
studio visits conducted in Austin this summer. Artists featured are
Erin Curtis, Ryan Lauderdale, Erick Michaud, Jill Pangallo, Joseph
Phillips and Virginia Yount.
IT’S GONNA BE REVERYTHING at Project Space
is a group exhibition of artworks and site-specific installations by
the Okay Mountain collective, who will spend more than a week in Kansas
City prior to the opening. This new series of works seeks to highlight
the collaborative way in which the group maintains its gallery and
wealth of duties.
It would be a pretty inspired choice to continue this exchange with
other small artist-centric institutions and gallery spaces in different
cities. Maybe Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, Cleveland,
Baltimore or New Orleans can teach us a thing or two about being an