Art Outside, Austin

This past weekend, October 7 – 9, 2011, marked a few great events.  One involved just over an inch of precipitation in central Texas—a truly glorious occasion, while the other took place an hour outside of Austin.  Driving east beyond the city limits, it became more apparent just how harsh this summer was in Texas.  Luckily for the seventh annual Art Outside, the rain brought cloud cover and cooler weather.

Art Outside, which takes place at Apache Pass in Rockdale, Texas, is a large gathering of artists, musicians, poets, performers and vendors.

Photo credit: Sam Feathers

Upon entering the camp grounds, it became apparent that Art Outside, which is headed up by Warren Mckinney, is a well organized and clean space.  Situated near the entrance was the main stage—ccomplete with bleachers, hula-hoopers and space for picnic blankets—where I had a chance to hear Austin-based Ukemi.

Wondering toward the midway stage in order to see the Minor Mishap Marching Band, who really got the crowd going with their lively show and funky costumes, I came across a few interesting spectacles.  A long line of young tweens eager for their turn to walk a tight rope that had been strung between two trees.  I’ve never actually walked a tight rope, or thought about walking one to be honest.  But it definitely looked like a fun challenge. Luckily for the klutzes of the world (myself included) a few people were there to lend a hand and balance.  A group of bicycles that had been transformed into rolling butterflies as well as a rattlesnake from the Austin Bike Zoo.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the large and mobile snake before as it provides fodder for conversation and lighting for G’Raj Mahal diners.

With all the space and tents at Art Outside, it came as no surprise to see a large tented structure transformed into an open-air art gallery.  Numerous artists graced the walls and many patrons were eager to see the art.  One intriguing artist, Ira Weinschel, presented a series of photographs based on the journey of a mannequin.  Several terrariums by Slavonk & Hortus Terraria brought little bits of the outside world in, providing a visual reminder that this was not a typical gallery space.   Several examples of Michael Garfield’s live paintings also graced the walls. Garfield finds his inspiration at concerts where he sets up an easel and canvas and proceeds to freely paint with paint pens.  He does not have a set design plan, but let’s the music inspire him producing incredibly vivid and organic works, not unlike a concert.

Photo credit: Brian Dewey

When I think of visual performances, it’s rare for my mind to wonder to turn of the century traveling circuses with their exotic side shows.  But the performers of 999 Eyes provided the vaudevillian freak show of centuries past, complete with the suspense that only the music of an accordion can provide.  One masked entertainer, Black Scorpion, whisked himself onto the stage in a mask, fairy swings and gloves.  He then proceeded to pound his hands with a mallet, or did he?

Art Outside may not be worth a daytrip for most, especially as so many festivals occur within the city limits of Austin.  Camping seems necessary in order to make it truly worthwhile; and camping surrounded by arrays of artistic talent sounds like a ton of fun.

Feature Image: Courtesy of excellent photographer Brian Dewey. Link to Brian Dewey Photography here.

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