Category: Arts and Culture

East Austin neighborhood for the homeless breaks barriers

A faith-based nonprofit has taken a new approach to the issue of chronic homelessness in Austin: building a supportive community.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an organization dedicated to promoting dignity for the chronically homeless, began as a food truck delivering meals, hygiene products and clothing to the needy but has now expanded to develop the Community First! Village, a 27-acre affordable housing development of more than 200 microhomes, RVs and canvas-sized cottages.

In February 2017, Austin City Council ordered the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) to conduct a study to produce a draft action plan to eliminate homelessness in the city. The plan, released Feb. 1, outlines five key goals: increase street outreach and emergency housing services, address disparities in opportunities for marginalized groups, build an effective resource system, encourage community commitment, and increase permanent supportive housing.

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The Community First! Village addresses the fifth goal, extending the Housing First approach to mitigating homelessness: Provide emergency housing, then permanent housing that connects the individual with the support necessary to meet a standard lease agreement. Once an individual has secured long-term housing, treatments for substance abuse and mental illnesses and other issues that may have contributed to their homelessness are most effective.

The village is designed as a permanent – rather than transitional – housing solution for the chronically homeless, filling a void in their lives by providing a stable support system.

Bonnie Durkee, a resident of the village, is a diabetic amputee who is partially blind. She has been able to access the treatment needed to manage her condition after moving in.

“You take what you got, and you build on it,” Durkee said. “And that’s what this place is allowing us to do. It’s getting us ready. It’s allowing us to make the transition and make the change.”

While a monthly income sufficient to pay rent is required, some residents receive rent subsidies through the City of Austin Coordinated Assessment, a single application that determines eligibility for a variety of assistance programs. Residents also have the opportunity to earn a steady, dignified income through Community Works, a Mobile Loaves & Fishes initiative in which volunteers and paid homeless individuals work side by side on enterprises including farming, artwork, blacksmithing and woodworking.

To qualify to live in the community, an individual must have been chronically homeless – living in a place not meant for human habitation and has been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, mental illness, or developmental disability – for at least one year or for four 90-day periods within the last three years.

If approved, the individual moves into a RV or an about 200-square-foot cottage or home with enough room for a bed, a desk, a mini fridge and a microwave. Shared kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities are housed separately. Other amenities at the village include gardens and walking trails, a community market, a medical facility, a bed and breakfast for visitors, a bus stop connecting to downtown, and an outdoor cinema.

But according to Thomas Aitchison, communications director for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the most valuable things the community provides are a family and a safe place to call home.

“[Homeless individuals] are used to looking over their back, or they’re used to being on the receiving end and the victims of crime,” Aitchison said. “They’re very vulnerable. So there are lots of walls built up around our friends. So once they live out here for a while, their walls begin to lower and they begin to feel more settled … They have the strength of the community around them.”

 

Deep in the Soul of Texas: Austin’s Jazz Scene

By Elisa Garcia, Sung Jai Lee, Lauryn Overhultz, Jasleen Shokar, Mary Layne Strieber

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 New Orleans-inspired jazz band, La Grosse Tete performs at Capital City Comedy Club on February 11. Photo taken by Sung Jai Lee

When people refer to Austin as ‘the Live Music Capital of the World,’ the music that comes to mind is mostly guitar-based country or rock ‘n’ roll. Although the home of Willie Nelson is not known for its jazz, Austin’s jazz scene has opportunities to enjoy the genre with some of the country’s richest history.

According to a 2015 article from Al Jazeera, jazz emerged a century ago from the combination of African rhythms and Western musical structure, played on military marching band instruments  rock ‘n’ roll was only a slight reinvention.

However, the jazz that originated during this time is different from the jazz people have come to know and love today. Sungil Gadgil, the director of the Austin Saxophone Ensemble, explained how jazz music evolved over time. After the 1920s, jazz spread across the U.S. and different artists developed divergent styles of the blues.

The jazz music of the early 1900s was centered around dance music, according to Gadgil.

“It’s music of entertainment and it’s music of the moment,” he said. “It’s a lot of wartime music going on, a lot of the Roaring ‘20s, there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of illicit alcohol, a lot of partying going on and jazz is accompanying that life at that time.”

After the 1920s, jazz artists began to borrow from swing dance. As swing dance culture began to become popular, Dixieland emerged, which is also known as traditional jazz. 

Infographic made by Sung Jai Lee

Not only has the musical style of jazz changed over time, the places where jazz thrives have changed as well.

As a result of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in 2005, New Orleans’ jazz scene saw a migration of musicians from New York and Chicago who played slightly different forms of jazz, according to Al Jazeera.

One place that can serve as an example of how Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans’ music is Frenchmen Street, according to Al Jazeera. After Katrina washed everything away, Frenchmen Street became the new music district. However, jazz is not made in local neighborhoods anymore. Instead, it is a modern reflection of original jazz.

Frenchmen Street wasn’t the only place that took time to recover. John Boutté, a vocalist and trumpeter based in New Orleans, returned after the storm to a city without music.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Boutté said he took gigs “as soon as they said the doors were open.”

“The sounds after the catastrophe – the helicopters, the buzz saws, the sirens, the pile drivers, the hammers, shit falling down around you – the sounds were not pleasant,” Boutté said. “There were no natural sounds. We didn’t have any crickets. We didn’t have any birds. As musicians, we had to counter that with positive sounds.”

According to Dave Stoddard, president of the Austin Traditional Jazz Society, jazz musicians were forced to move into different areas after the storm. Many chose to migrate to Texas. Instead of heading back to New Orleans after the city began to rebuild, they stayed and helped grow the jazz scene in San Antonio and Austin.

 

Photos taken by Elisa Garcia and Sung Jai Lee

ATJS Photographer Tom Straus said he believes Texas still has room to grow its jazz scene.

“Traditional jazz is not very big in Texas,” Straus said. “One of the reasons it’s not too big in Texas is because it’s Texas. Natives listen to country-western and bluegrass, because that’s what they were raised on.”

Yet, Austin had a major renaissance of traditional jazz in the early 2000s, according to Stoddard.

Stoddard said traditional jazz is also known as ‘White New Orleans’ or ‘Dixieland.’ The earliest band to showcase this form of jazz was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, which was founded in New Orleans in 1916 and issued the first commercial jazz record in 1917.

“Now, we have quite a lot of jazz,” Stoddard said. “You can hear some form of traditional jazz almost every night of the week somewhere in the greater Austin area.”

Today, Austin has a range of jazz venues such as The Skylark Lounge, Elephant Room, The Continental Club, Antone’s and C-Boy’s Heart & Soul.

“People in Austin are interested in a variety of music forms,” Stoddard said. “If they’ll come listen to us, they’ll very often like what they hear.”

 

Is Online Dating Ruining Romance?

Photo and video by Anne Jorgenson

Story by Nahila Bonfiglio

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We live in an era of instant gratification. Delivery drones, online shopping and the ability to communicate across miles in moments have changed the way people live their lives. In 2018, there is an app for just about everything—even love.

Online dating is nothing new. The first dating service, Operation Match, was created in the 1960s by a group of Harvard students. It was reportedly used by a million daters worldwide throughout the decade, and used a simple paper questionnaire fed through the massive system to find matches. Even before Operation Match, lonely folks seeking companionship could put out personal ads or find a pen-pal to correspond with. People have always found ways to connect with one another, so what makes dating apps like Tinder or Grindr any different from what has come before?

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According to Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the main thing that online dating apps have changed is the number and availability of options.

“It looks like what it does is it makes the search for somebody more efficient, but what it also does is kind of dehumanizes people in some ways,” Regnerus said. 

“What is a person? They are more than their looks, they are more than what they look like they are worth.”

His criticism is not unfounded. Tinder connects users by considering two essential factors—the rational and the emotional. The rational matches users based on age and geographical distance, and the emotional matches them based on appearance and requited interest. The basic setup of “swipe right if you like what you see” has led to wide criticism of Tinder’s focus on appearance.

“The fundamental underlying logic to it is probably not reformable, in some ways. I mean you really are reducing the person to a set of knowable traits and then making a judgement about whether you might fit with them or not,” Regnerus said.

Regnerus has been examining relationships for years now. His books, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think about Marrying and Cheap Sex and the Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy examine the world of dating and how it has changed due to the influence of technology on “sex and sexuality”. In his research he has found that though many people meet using these technological shortcuts, it is still more common for young people to meet face to face. Bars, school and work still provide plenty of opportunities to meet potential partners.

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We aren’t the first to shine a spotlight on the rising importance of apps in interpersonal relationships. The way this industry has changed how people meet and communicate has been the focus of several studies. A 2015 book by Aziz Ansari titled Modern Romance dug through blogs, books and pages of data to draw conclusions about what dating looks like in the modern age. Ansari wanted to answer the same question: is the rise of online dating helping or hurting romance? 

There are many who claim that online dating is has led to a decline in monogamous relationships, but studies show that this is just not true. A 2017 New York Times report found that more people than ever are entering committed relationships thanks to Tinder and similar dating apps.

They spoke to Jessica Carbino, Tinder’s on-site sociologist, who said findings from a recent study indicate that Tinder users are more likely to be looking for a committed relationship than offline daters.

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A 2002 quote from Wired magazine claims that “Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalogue to instead wander the stacks because the right books are found only by accident.” It has not yet been twenty years since this statement was made, however even in 2018 venturing online is one of the most common ways to meet people.

Ross Hudson, a 32-year-old Tinder user, says his Tinder experience was mostly a lot of wondering.

“Tinder is very much like, here is three sentences about yourself, and a couple of pictures, and people are obviously just trying to f***.” 

He says that though he enjoyed the simple appeal of Tinder’s interface, he much preferred using apps like OkCupid, which has a more in-depth set-up, but allows users to better understand the people they are matching with. Ultimately, Hudson found that online dating didn’t work for him. 

“The concept of meeting someone who isn’t interested in getting to know you makes that first date really awkward,” Hudson said. “I can understand the appeal, but for me it ended up awkward more often than not.”

There are plenty of people that agree with him, but a significant number find the opposite to be true too. Dr. Alison Marr, an assistant mathematics professor at Southwestern University, met her husband using Tinder’s simple interface. 

“A lot of these other dating apps, in my experience, there is like a large investment or an electronic courtship,” Marr said. “I don’t need all of this back and forth, let’s just get into a space and figure out if we like each other.”

 In the case of Marr and Michael Grisham, her husband of two years, Tinder was critical. If not for the geographical search radius, they likely never would have met.

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“I have never met anyone in person, I don’t know how people do that,” Marr said. “Where do people meet in person?”

Despite consistent disagreement, the world seems to be coming closer to accepting online dating as the new norm. Though a number of people still meet their partners through face-to-face interactions, the world is turning more and more toward apps as an avenue for romance. 

Many of the early misconceptions about online dating—that it would ruin in-person relationships, that it would sap the romance out of life or that it would bastardize romance—turned out to be false. The ways that people meet are constantly changing, and technology is a bigger player in this industry each year. Tinder and similar apps have shifted the way we think about romance, but they have in no way eliminated it. 

 

Community members respond to possible relocation of HOPE Outdoor Gallery

Story by Amanda Pinney & Edited by Bryan Rolli

Photos By Tess Cagle

Video Filmed and Edited by Kailey Thompson

 

Splashes of neon paint explode off the concrete walls nestled into the grassy hill on 11th and Baylor Street, home to Austin’s iconic graffiti park, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Each layer of spray paint reveals a colorful mess of chunky bubble letters, intricate murals and hastily scribbled phrases. The artwork changes constantly, as the space welcomes myriads of locals and tourists who need only a spray can and a bit of inspiration to leave their mark on the city.


The HOPE Outdoor Gallery was developed in 2010 as a short-term art installation linked to the HOPE Campaign and created with the intention to channel and promote positive messages in the community. Property developers planned to turn the gallery’s concrete walls — remnants of an abandoned construction project from the 1980s — into condos once the installation ran its course.

View the rest of the story here.

Meet One of the Only Feminist Bookstores in the U.S.

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BookWoman owner Susan Post looks through her cell phone behind the check out desk of the feminist bookstore. In 1975 Book Woman opened its doors in Dobie Mall, and 40 years later is one of just 13 feminist bookstores in the world.

 

By Sarah Jasmine Montgomery, Vedant Peris, Kris Seavers and Sunny Sone

 See the full story here.

The day after the presidential election, the first customer to walk into BookWoman recounted an emotional morning to owner Susan Post.

“She said, ‘We got up this morning and my daughter had been watching the election and she saw my expression and she said, ‘Mom, what happened?’ and she said, ‘We lost,’” Post said.

The woman got her daughter to school and then headed straight for the comforts of the quaint bookstore, which sits under a purple banner on North Lamar Boulevard.

“The first thing she wanted to do was come here because she knew she’d feel better,” Post said. “She ended up picking up a book for her daughter. She said, ‘I’m going bring her a book about a strong women. We didn’t lose. We’re just more aware now of what we are up against.’”

 

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BookWoman is not limited to solely feminist texts – the store sells materials related to the LGBTQ rights movement and, above, t-shirts supporting a local author.

 

 

BookWoman is one of only 13 bookstores left in the United States that self-identifies as a feminist bookstore. It’s also one of 18 independent bookstores in the greater Austin area, where, like the rest of the country, there is an all time high number of bookstores. It seems that people are now interested more than ever in buying books locally, even with the successes of national chain retailers and declining numbers of book sales.

BookWoman in particular has situated itself from the beginning as a political and activist space, and Post said the community’s need for her books is just as important now as it was when the store opened in the 1970s. In the months since the presidential election, Post said she has seen an increase in her sales and an interest in activism — not only in rallies and protests, but within the space of her store.

“People are still continuing to gather and to work and to protest,” Post said. “Instead of just signing a petition, people are showing up and expressing how they feel about the political climate.”

One recent BookWoman event featured two black women poets, Sequoia Maner and Sheree Renée Thomas, as part of an ongoing series in partnership with Torch Literary Arts, a nonprofit with the mission to “support the work of black women and girls through creative writing.” More than 15 people crowded between the shelves to hear the open mic and feature poets, who touched on subjects including #BlackLivesMatter, sexual assault and LGBT issues.

Ray, a woman who attended the poetry event and preferred not to share her last name, said BookWoman serves an important need for a space that people can find representations of their beliefs — as well as opposing views.

“I think that’s really important, especially now with so many people not being sure how to become politicized,” Ray said.

A book published last year by Kristen Hogan, the education coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center, features BookWoman and other surviving feminist bookstores to explore how the stores have historically countered racism and created networks of diverse feminists. The book, titled “The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism & Feminist Accountability,” explores the radical history of feminist bookstores, and how modern journalists seem to gloss over these histories.

“Feminist bookstores have been not simply spaces to gather but sites of complex conversations among staff and collectives and, in turn, with readers about feminist accountability,” Hogan writes in the book.

 

BookWoman itself began as a passion project of the Common Woman Collective, a group of Austin women who dedicated themselves to ordering books and finding a place to host a storefront. Post helped DeeDee Spontak, a carpenter, and other members of the collective fix up three donated rooms at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets. In 1975, the store opened its doors with a red and yellow hand sewn sign that said “Common Woman Bookstore.”

Post said business boomed from the early to mid ‘70s, when customers flocked to the store to buy books they literally couldn’t find elsewhere.

“There weren’t a lot of books published by women, or publishers were turning down more radical things because there might be nudity or their might be lesbianism or there might be activism,” Post said.

 

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Witches Are Among Us

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Photos by Elise Cardenas and Yelitza Mandujano
Video by Elise Cardenas
Audio by Julie Gomez

“You can’t throw a rune without hitting a witch in Austin”

Kristi Lewis’s first forays into witchcraft began with dead animals. When she found pieces of bone or other animal remains on hikes, she would wrap the animal in wire the to preserve it and honor its characteristics.

“I was just drawn to the idea of rebirth in a way, that death isn’t the final end-all,” Lewis said.

In November, she started selling jewelry inspired by her pagan beliefs full-time through Etsy and pop-up shops. One day when she was vending her jewelry at Independence Brewery, a woman saw her and pulled her children away, warning them to stay away from witches. Another woman and witch herself, Jessica Beauvoir, approached Lewis and invited her to join Austin Witches Circle, a creative collective for “witches, pagans & magical folk.”


“[Austin Witches Circle] is an opportunity for local witchy folks who make things to try and make a living selling or supplement their livelihood doing something they love,” Beauvoir said. “It also helps bring people together. We are always interacting with each other and being inspired by each other.”

Three to five times a month, Austin Witches Circle puts on markets where witches and non-witches can sell goods such as potions, amulets and jewelry. They also host occasional workshops and spiritual events like Sabbats, festivals that mark dates of seasonal or agricultural importance.

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Austin Witches Circle allows dark-art vendors to sell their crafts without judgement or skepticism they would receive at other art markets around town. When Beauvoir began selling teas and herbs around Austin, she faced some difficulties finding the right place to sell them. She founded Austin Witches Circle to bring together people with similar interests in witchcraft and art.

Though there is no requirement to be a witch to vend at Austin Witches Circle’s markets, Beauvoir says the vendors’ crafts share underlying themes, such as alternative spirituality and reverence for nature. According to Beauvoir, no specific belief or practice makes a person a witch.

“I think what makes a witch is when they identify with that word and figure out what it means to them,” she said. “I wouldn’t say there is any one characteristic that all witches share.”

Beauvoir uses herbalism to practice her witchcraft.  She identifies a secular chaos witch, meaning she uses her belief itself as a tool. Beauvoir says believing in something is what gives it power, so her beliefs can adapt depending on her needs. If she wanted to cast a spell that required belief in a particular deity, she would believe in that deity for the duration of that spell.

According to Cedar Stevens, another member of Austin Witches Circle, Austin has a large witch and pagan community, and though most witches are women, though there are some men as well. Many witches are quite discreet. 

“You can’t throw a rune without hitting a witch in Austin,” Stevens said.

Stevens, a former atheist and scientist, now identifies as a witch and as “Wicca-ish.” She followed a trail of books from native plant landscaping and gardening, to agriculture, to herbal medicine and eventually to magical herbalism. Stevens was skeptical about magical herbalism at first, but found it to be her calling and soon started selling oils and incenses based on plant magic through her store, Natural Magick Shop.

Witchcraft is a practice, not necessarily a belief. Witches create from materials provided by the earth. They can choose to believe in pagan spirits or gods, something else or nothing at all.

According to Chris Godwin, acting clergy at a pagan congregation, Hearthstone Grove, witchcraft is the practice of pagan beliefs.

Godwin’s congregation practices Druidism, the second largest pagan religion in the United States after Wicca. Godwin’s Druid congregation focuses on traditional Irish gods and practices. They recite prayers in Gaelic, and rituals feature fires where congregants place offerings such as alcohol. Their community practices a kind of witchcraft that focuses on herbalism. Godwin says he’s skeptical of the efficacy of witchcraft, so he doesn’t practice it often.

“[Witchcraft] is kind of like prayer,” Godwin said. “It’s for when you have no agency left, and you must find some form of agency, some way to express and get out of the psychological state of being in need or being frustrated.”

All girl vinyl collective challenges male domination in DJing

Chulita Vinyl Club team lead and DJ Xochi Solis focuses on the turntable at the collective's gig Feb. 24 at the Carousel Lounge. The "all-girl all-vinyl" group of DJs is based in Austin and has chapters in San Antonio and on the West Coast.

Chulita Vinyl Club team lead and DJ Xochi Solis focuses on the turntable at the collective’s gig Feb. 24 at the Carousel Lounge. The “all-girl all-vinyl” group of DJs is based in Austin and has chapters in San Antonio and on the West Coast.

By Sarah Jasmine Montgomery, Vedant Peris, Kris Seavers and Sunny Sone

See the full package here: https://texasnonosvamos.squarespace.com/chulita-vinyl-club/

The vibrant sounds of cumbia, salsa and other Latin rhythms pulsated the walls of the Carousel Lounge in East Austin one cool Friday evening in February. Inside, a life-size ceramic elephant served as the backdrop to the DJ table, where various women took turns pulling records from their sleeves and laying down hip-swaying beats. At the carnival-themed bar, patrons sipped Lone Stars and nodded their heads until a particular song moved them to the dance floor. The festive mood was typical of this particular DJ collective’s gigs, but it was a rare night when most of the members of the Austin chapter were together, taking turns as older members helped out new ones.

Austin native Claudia Saenz founded the Chulita Vinyl Club in 2014 when she noticed a lack of spaces for women — especially women of color — in the DJ industry. In just three years, the group blossomed into a thriving organization with about 50 chulitas — the word is a term of endearment in Spanish and means “cutie” or “sweetie” — and seven chapters across Texas and California. The “all girl all vinyl” collective teaches new members the technical skills needed to work a turntable while encouraging a judgement-free space for women whose identities are often marginalized in the music industry. Xochi Solis is a DJ and the Austin chapter’s “lead Chulita.”

“[DJing] isn’t hard, but it can be daunting when you’re trying to learn, and it’s a male-dominated arena,” Solis said. “So we create a safe space for learning technology, but also a safe space for conversations about identity politics, social justice issues.”

 

Xochi Solis is the lead Chulita and a DJ of the Chulita Vinyl Club's Austin chapter. She said the collective is a "space to empower women of color in the DJ industry."

Xochi Solis is the lead Chulita and a DJ of the Chulita Vinyl Club’s Austin chapter. She said the collective is a “space to empower women of color in the DJ industry.”

Saenz has since moved to California and started four other Chulita Vinyl Club chapters there. Solis, a local visual artist, has taken on a leadership role here in Austin, where she’s fondly referred to as “mom” by the 20 or so DJs she helps manage. She says the group grows every other month or so.

“When we play gigs, women come up and want to know more about industry, or are excited because we played a song that reminded them of something their grandmother or grandfather played in kitchen,” Solis said.

 

 

 

Solis began collecting her own records 20 years ago. As a small girl, she listened to the vinyl collections of her father, who was a DJ at Baylor University’s student station in the 1960s and ‘70s. Her personal collection ranges from the sounds of the Queen of Tejano music Selena Quintanilla to the more experimental music of Yoko Ono and Laurie Anderson. But as a third-generation Austinite and self-identified Tejana, it’s the native sounds of Mexican-Americans in Texas that Solis loves to play the most. 

“It tells a story beyond what the song or the corrido or whatever the tune might be,” Solis said. “There’s a story of, ‘Hey this is on Teardrop Records’ or, ‘This is on Joey Records based out of San Antonio,’” Solis said. “It’s really about this endeavor of enterprise that people wanted to share this music and share these stories.”

Chulita Vinyl Club DJ Ana Cecilia "La PhDj" Calle said she didn't feel at home in Austin when she moved from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree. "I thought the best way to feel at home would be to bring my record collection," she said.

Chulita Vinyl Club DJ Ana Cecilia “La PhDj” Calle said she didn’t feel at home in Austin when she moved from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree. “I thought the best way to feel at home would be to bring my record collection,” she said.

 

Every DJ in the group has her own repertoire, from salsa to hip-hop to ‘80s pop. Ana Cecilia Calle, who goes by “La PhDj” when she’s behind the turntables, plays a lot of cumbia — a dance genre popular across Latin America — from the ‘50s and ‘60s. When she moved to Austin from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin, she didn’t feel quite at home. But she thought bringing her record collection would be the best way to settle in. For her, the draw to vinyl is in the materiality of the format.

“Being able to carry something and saying this is actual sound, and all I have to do is put a needle and make it spin,” Calle said. “So when it spins, the whole history of that object spins as well. Like the travels it had to make, the scratches it has. It is a single thing happening — and it only happens once — that’s the history of that object playing in that very moment.”

Camila “Cienfuegos” Torres-Castro is one of the newest DJs in the collective. She joined after moving from a small town in Mexico to Austin, also to pursue a doctoral degree. Like many of the DJs, she found the group on Facebook, and she was drawn in by the appeal of learning how to spin. But she also found a friend group — a multicultural group with “political edge.”

“I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I think what we do is a really way of resisting right now because we’re all women of color, and we’re making space in a scene that’s predominantly male,” Torres-Castro said. “It’s not just spinning because of spinning, we are actually doing it with a conscience of our position as women in color in this day and age with Trump as president in Texas.”

As the chulitas spin at the Carousel Lounge — which has asked the collective to perform a monthly show — and other shows across the city, including at South By Southwest, it’s clear the chulitas have created a much-needed niche here. In Austin, women make up 20 percent of musicians in the city, and 10.4 percent of musicians identify as Hispanic, according to last year’s Austin Music Census. Solis said “a space of exploration” like the Chulita Vinyl Club empowers the women individually and makes them stronger together.

“Things are changing really fast in our communities, and I think the call for Chulita Vinyl Club to come together was in reaction to that change,” Solis said. “We were seeing our own communities of other people of color diminishing and going, ‘Where are the people that I can relate to culturally?’”

Tejano Music Timeline

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Outsider Fest Showcases LGBT Art

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Photos by Yelitza Mandujano and Selah Maya Zighelboim

Amber Bemak and Nadia Granados, two artists from the United States and Columbia, explored political and personal themes in a performance called “American Spectral History” during the third annual Outsider Fest. Using video and performance art, they presented images of aggression from North America against Latin America, violence against women and queer people and lesbian lovers.

“One thing that people said a lot to us after the show is that it made them feel turned on and disgusted at themselves for being turned on but also at what we were showing,” Bemak said. “I think that’s a good descriptor of our work, and we want people to have that visceral experience at the same time because so much of what we talk about politically has to do with sexuality and gender and sex.”

 Amber Bemak performing “American Spectral History”.

Like many other performances at Outsider Fest, “American Spectral History” touches on topics of queerness and intersectionality. Outsider Fest, an LGBT art festival that ran from Thursday, Feb. 16 to Sunday, Feb. 19, featured spoken word, concerts, films and theatrical performances. According to Curran Nault, the festival’s founder and organizer, the goal of Outsider Fest is to facilitate conversations between different groups of people — between artists and academics, different kinds of artists and different races, ethnicities and classes.

“What’s kind of important to me is the name ‘Outsider’ itself,” Nault said. “It’s meant to evoke, obviously, sexuality, as being out, being queer, but also all of the different ways that people can feel marginalized, outside of the norm, outside of power.”

Use this interactive map to explore the different venues used during (Out)sider
Map and captions by Julie Gomez

This year’s theme was ‘Into the Wild,’ which Nault said is meant to express the idea of reconnecting with nature to solidify community and re-emerge, ready to fight. According to Nault, one show that touched on this theme was “Promised Land” by Rudy Ramirez. In the show, Ramirez goes on a personal journey to find self-acceptance, at one point traveling and camping in the woods.

Ramirez said he created his show, “Promised Land,” with a specific kind of audience member in mind, a young queer Latino who needed confirmation that his feelings and experiences were legitimate. Ramirez wanted “Promised Land” to be the validation he needed when he was younger.

“I was queer in my head before, but when I saw this world, I was queer in my heart after that,” he said. “It was a feeling that this world is possible, we can get there. It’s not something that’s just imaginary. It can be real, and it makes it so much more worth fighting for.”

Lilia Rosas (left), Irene Lara Silva (center left), Paige Schilt (center right), and Trystan Cotton (right) during “Conference on the Couch”.

Besides art shows like “American Spectral History” and “Promised Land,” Outsider Fest also included panels. Most days of the festival began with a Conference on the Couch, where attendees could gather in Nault’s living room with a panel of academics, who sat on couches and chairs with attendees to discuss their work. These panels covered art activism, transgenderism and queer publishing.

For Nault, who is radio-television-film lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, taking academia from its “ivory tower” and bringing it to the community is an important aspect of the festival.

“The fact that we’re literally welcoming you into our living room sets a tone for what the festival is really about, that is that there’s no separation,” Nault said. “There’s no separation between the people making the festival and attending the festival. We’re all together in this family setting.”

According to Nault, art’s emotional resonance makes it unique as a tool for community-building and activism. This resonance allows it to stay with its audience in a way that something like a pamphlet, which only hits on an intellectual level, cannot.  

“Art creates new worlds,” he said. “There’s something that points to a utopian impulse or an imaginary impulse. It creates new visions beyond our current state. It creates a yearning for something different.”

Video by Elise Cardenas, Selah Maya Zighelboim, and Yelitza Mandujano

Art From The Streets

By Mackenzie Palmer, Peyton Yager, Kathryn Miles and Taylor Gantt

David Schumaker woke up every morning on the cold streets of Austin, but one day this would all change.

Schumaker was walking past the Trinity Center downtown, and a woman volunteer at a local art studio stopped him and asked him to tell his story. Schumaker explained how he had been living on the city streets for more than 5 years due to the loss of his parents, alcoholism and drugs.

The volunteer immediately invited him into the art studio and told him to take that grief and anger and paint a picture.

“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me,” David Schumaker said.

For over 25 years, Art From the Streets has given the homeless community a chance to start over by providing them with a studio at the Trinity Center, art supplies, and volunteers to help sell art in hope to create a new beginning.

The non-profit organization is run on donations and holds pop-up art shows around downtown Austin. The art shows provide an opportunity for income for the contributors, 80 percent of the earnings of the art go to the artist. Their slogan, “Give Art a Home”, fully embodies the message that AFTS provides an encouraging space for artistic expression for those who need it most

The artists are able to attend 3 free studio sessions each week while creating one-of-a-kind pieces all year long to prepare for the annual “Art From the Streets Exhibition Show”.

Last year’s 24th Annual Show and Sale at the Austin Convention Center brought over 1,200 people who purchased over $90,000 of art in the 10 hours they were open.

The show changed one artist’s’ life entirely. “I own a duplex on South Lamar now. I made enough money at the show last year to pay 2 years of rent,” Jerry Hurta said, “I have a lot of returning customers and people that have gotten to know me, I have a fan club at the art show each year now.”

The program does not only bring money and stability to the artists. It provides them with creativity and determination to belong to something in this world.


 

“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me.”


Cathy Carr lost everything she knew in a house fire and immediately was forced to live off of the streets. After hearing about Art From the Streets from a couple friends, she immediately fell in love with the program.

Carr’s painting subjects are usually animals because she feels they are independent and courageous. She hopes to open either an art or a music studio of her own one day to inspire others.

The artists create personal relationships with each other and the volunteers during the studio sessions and the annual exhibition show. Individuals that were once invisible are now seen as a local celebrity. Art From the Streets motivates their artists to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication all year.

The volunteers at the studio range in age from 20 to 70. Most of the volunteers have a passion for art and become truly inspired by the products the homeless or at-risk artists create.

The volunteers often have jobs in the St. David’s episcopal church which allow them to be on site and available for all of the art sessions. They like the consistent schedule and central location because it allows them to build strong bonds with the artists and serve as not only a volunteer, but as a friend.

Schumaker explains that a change in perspective can sometimes be all a person requires to get out there and help somebody in need.

At this year’s art exhibition David Schumaker is expected to have over 200 paintings on display. Schumaker now pays for his own apartment from his earnings for his art and never looks back at the life he once lived.

The Trinity Center is located downtown at 304 East 7th Street. Open studio times are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.

 

website: http://artfromthestreets.weebly.com/

 

Swingin’ to the Beat

Photos by Jane Morgan Scott

 

Every Tuesday night, they climb the steps up to a Georgian style mansion with brown brick and white doors. The latch on the door is slightly heavy, and opens with a push. Once inside, they change into shoes with will ease their feet onto the dance floor.

Stephanie and Dan Procter have been attending swing classes at the Texas Federation of Women’s Club commonly called, “The Fed”, for nearly two years now. But, they have been dancing for much, much longer.

The couple first met in 1992 at Ruby’s BBQ when Dan showed up to listen to a live Cajun band.

“And I was there, pretty much minding my own business, this really cute dark-haired girl came up and asked, ‘Will you waltz with me?’” he said.

After the dance, Dan thought his dance partner was endearing, but was discouraged by her friend.

“She was with this guy who was real tall, who I assumed was her boyfriend,” Dan said.

“He wasn’t!” Stephanie chimed in.

After their first encounter, the two bumped into each other at local dance scenes. Even twenty years ago, dancing brought the couple closer together. And while Dan didn’t know much about Stephanie, he was determined to win ask her out on a date.

“They used to have these things called phone directories. They were big, thick books,” Dan said. “I didn’t get how she spelled her [last] name, so I spent a couple of hours flipping through the M’s.”

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Stephanie said laughing.

When Dan finally found Stephanie’s correct last name, he called her and asked her out. She agreed.  The two eventually married in 2009, and never left the dance floor.

With dancing styles like Zydeco and two-step on their plate, Dan said it was time for a change.

“After 20 years, you get tired of dancing backwards at the Broken Spoke,” he said referring to an Austin honky-tonk dance hall.

The couple landed inside the Fed on 2312 San Gabriel Street, where the Austin Swing Syndicate houses swing dancing. Thursday evenings feature beginner classes, while other days consist of specialized dancing for balboa, lindy, and shag.

Dan and Stephanie currently attend Sunday-through-Tuesday classes for balboa. Even though the couple does not consider themselves in the “cool” crowd because they are beginners, it’s an adventure for them where they are eager to learn.

“The steps are more complicated, and the rhythms are more varied,” Dan said. “I find it more challenging, although more fun.”

Stephanie enjoys the change in attire and culture.

“I got to buy a bunch of different shoes for this,” she says.

The shoes used in swing dancing have what Dan says is a “slidey” sole. He bought his from a local thrift store, and Stephanie has three pairs of shoes with small heels and straps around the ankles.

“It’s different from boots,” she added.

Dan’s favorite part about dancing?

“Dancing with Stephanie,” he said looking at his 50-year-old wife.

“For me, he’s always been my favorite partner,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie said she’s also enjoyed the nonverbal communication of dancing.

“You’re having a physical conversation, and it doesn’t have to be sexy. But it is a communication form,” she said.

Dan adds that there is no real age limit to dancing, as he is 63 years old. This is evident since every week at least 200 to 300 people attend the Fed for swing dancing. Middle-aged couples to pre-teenagers come through the door, some regulars, others first-timers.

The Procters’ advice for those wanting to join is to ignore what others might think.

“Don’t worry what you look like!” Stephanie said.

“Realize that nobody is really watching you.  And if you’re a beginner, they’re going to recognize that, and they’re not gonna judge you for it,” Dan said.

Dan said that ultimately, perseverance is needed to have a good time.

“There is bit of a wall you have to push through, and that’s what we’re doing right now with swing.”

Written by Ceci Gonzales

Video by Meredith Knight