Austin’s Co-Lab Projects Makes Way for Car-Free Luxury Highrise

by Glasstire December 31, 2017

Co-Lab Projects’ DEMO Gallery

In a recent email, Co-Lab Projects announced that the exhibition Good Mourning Tis of Thee was the organization’s final show at its temporary downtown DEMO Gallery space. Located at the corner of Congress Avenue and 8th Street, just next door to the city’s historic Paramount Theatre, the building-turned-gallery sat vacant for years before Co-Lab moved in in 2016. The space was marked by high ceilings, stone and concrete floors and walls, and a basement room that hosted performances, dance parties, and installation works.

Co-Lab’s name for the gallery came from it’s predestined fate: when the organization moved in, they knew the building was set for demolition and replacement by The Avenue, a luxury apartment tower promoting a carless life (the tower’s hallmark is that the building won’t have a parking garage). Developers hoped to break ground on The Avenue in May of this year, but plans stalled — most recently, its November 6th demolition date was moved back to the first quarter of 2018, allowing Good Mourning Tis of Thee to run through the end of November.

Although Co-Lab could have continued programming the space in December, January, and February, Sean Gaulager, the organization’s executive director and curator, decided it would be best if they stopped while they were ahead, saying:

“…due to the size of the space, exhibitions at DEMO Gallery typically required at least six months of planning and significantly more funding than previous locations. So, rather than scrambling last-minute to throw something together, we decided to end with our largest production to date “Good Mourning Tis of Thee,” a contextually perfect exhibition about death, transformation, rebirth, architecture, and urban renewal. In addition to the conceptual considerations, some pre-demolition work has started in the building requiring us to move our equipment and supplies into temporary storage and limiting our use of the space for exhibitions.”

Co-Lab will use this break to focus their search for a permanent home, redo their website, work on their archive, and present special projects in 2018. Throughout this time they will continue their Instagram residency program.

In his end of year letter, Gaulager closed by commenting on the resilience of Austin’s art scene amidst rent hikes and displacement:

“This coming year will prove to be a challenging one for the arts with rent hikes and property sales leaving many organizations and artists without space to work. However, if you’ve been here long enough, you’ve probably seen this before and, therefore, know that we are a tenacious bunch. I, personally, have lost four spaces in the span of my twelve-year career working within the Austin art community and I’m sure that DEMO won’t be the last. I’ve witnessed the resolve of our community despite so many uphill battles and I have faith that new opportunities are on the horizon even if we cannot yet see them.”


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