Austin is a burgeoning city for the arts, as the downtown area has recently seen a rapid increase in development of high rise apartments, commercial space, and artistic venues for progressive and creative talent. The art museums and galleries have responded in kind by making significant efforts to expand and reach out to the cities’ emergent visual arts audience.
In 2011, two of Austin’s largest art institutions – the Austin Museum of Art and Arthouse at the Jones Center – united in order to create a more extensive and stronger visual arts entity. The merger creates the opportunity for the combined audiences to experience new and innovative programs and exhibits in three distinctive locations in Austin. Both AMOA and Arthouse will continue to offer programs and exhibits in their current spaces in the heart of downtown Austin, with additional exhibitions offered in the picturesque Italianate-style villa (and original Austin Museum of Art) in West Austin called Laguna Gloria.
The University of Texas has also contributed to the growth of visual art in Austin through the 2006 opening of the Blanton Museum of Art, a grand structure boasting a collection of over 17,000 pieces. The new facility has become a community icon and popular destination for art lovers in Austin who love to mingle, hosting an endless flow of parties and monthly ‘B-scene’ happy hours that feature live music and occasional performance art. While the majority of the collection focuses on Western European art from the fourteenth through twentieth centuries and modern and contemporary art of the Americas, the Blanton has keenly incorporated contemporary and international artists to reach a diverse audience.
The growth of these large art institutions has been supplemented by the ever-expanding local arts scene, with more artists and galleries adding to the collective art frenzy that has taken place over the last ten years. Showcasing the rich wealth of talent of East Austin’s large and wildly diverse creative community is the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T). Arguably the cities’ most attended art event, the 10th annual E.A.S.T. took place in November 2011 and hosted over 300 artists. Events such as these capture the excitement and innovation of the contemporary Austin arts community. It is certainly an exciting time for the Austin arts scene, as the expansion of museums and galleries offer more opportunities and options than ever before for both locals and visitors to enjoy. (Kallie Kirkland)