Category: Arts and Culture

Keep Austin Jazzy

Landmarks unveils most daring sculpture yet

By: Cooper Haynie, Mikhaela Locklear, Jonathan Garza and Melanie Price

AUSTIN – As students flooded back to the 40 acres for Spring semester many were shocked to see over 70 small boats and canoes on campus. This was no prank or mistake. In fact, it was very intentional. The boats made up a 50 ft structure that teeters over a busy campus intersection.

What is now known to many students as the “boat sculpture” is actually named Monochrome for Austin, and was designed by artist Nancy Rubins specifically for the UT campus. The structure is located at 24th Street and Speedway.

This project represents the first large-scale sculpture by a female artist for the UT Austin campus, according to Landmarks, the campus public art program.

The $1.4 million in funding for Monochrome for Austin came from capital improvement funds provided by the construction of the neighboring Norman Hackerman Building (NHB). Although students have been quick to assume, no tuition money went to fund this piece of public art.

Landmarks invites the public to attend the official unveiling of Monochrome for Austin on March 5 at 5:30 p.m. The celebration will take place at the Norman Hackerman Building where the sculpture now stands. A Q-and-A with Rubins will be followed by a celebratory reception on the NHB patio.

Landmarks projects are scattered throughout campus. The campus public art project launched in 2008 to “develop a cohesive collection of public art from a curatorial perspective.” The displays have beautified the campus ever since.

Monochrome for Austin simply contributes to a long list of unique campus art.


More unique campus art displays


Circle With Towers 

Sol LeWitt’s Circle with Towers was introduced to the UT campus in 2011 and stands at the entrance to the Gates Dell Complex on Speedway.

This piece of work can be enjoyed not only as an abstract art form, but also as a social gathering place.




The Color Insideskyspace2

Located on top of the Student Activity Center a unique and little known piece of art invites students to participate by enjoying the peace and quiet.

James Turrell’s skyspace, The Color Inside, can be experienced throughout the day but Landmarks recommends sunrise and sunset. Pictures just can’t do it justice.



  And That’s The Way It IsProjection1

Located in the Walter Cronkite Plaza of the Moody College of Communication is another unique piece of art. And That’s The Way It Is by Ben Rubin was dedicated to Cronkite in 2012 when it was added to the UT campus.

This display features broadcast news text from the Cronkite era and modern day being projected in a grid on the communications building. This piece of artwork can be viewed every night on the UT campus.


Clock Knot1 Clock Knot

Introduced by artist Mark di Suvero to the UT campus in 2007, Clock Knot stands outside the chemical and mechanical engineering buildings.

The sculpture represents a giant clock face “knotted” in the middle. When moving around Clock Knot the views constantly change.

“Historically, a sculpture was an object to be looked at, usually on a pedestal, not something one viewed from underneath,” according to Landmarks.

However, by walking around this particular structure the viewers experience drastically changes.


Improv on the Rise at UT

By: Jacob Kerr, Judy Hong, Becca Gamache & Carola Guerrero De León

(Austin, Texas) – It’s a Friday night on the UT campus, and a group of students are huddled up together outside a class auditorium. With an audience already building up inside, the group heads to the front of the room. They are ready to perform and entertain.

They look at each other before announcing the show has started. They have no scripts or any idea of what they will do next. This is UT’s growing improv scene, which has developed over the past 12 years in a city that has become a live comedy stronghold.
Known for being the “live music capital of the world,” Austin is also home to a thriving comedy scene. Venues such as Esther’s Follies, the Hideout Theatre, the Capitol City Comedy Club, Coldtowne Theater, the New Movement and the Velveeta Room hold shows and classes every week.

The UT campus is also home to two student troupes: Gigglepants and SNAFU.

While the groups both perform on Friday nights, they specialize in different types of improv – Gigglepants does short form and SNAFU does long form.

Taylor Wingfield shocks the audience and Gigglepants team by taking a skit to a surprising turn.  Photo by Becca Gamache

Taylor Wingfield shocks the audience and Gigglepants team by taking a skit to a surprising turn.
Photo by Becca Gamache

Short form is made up of a series of games in which a referee outlines the rules and chooses a winner.

“Short form improv is very digestible for an audience to just come in and laugh at,” says Gigglepants member Jon Cozart, who is also known for his popular YouTube channel.“Kids who grew up watching ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ – that’s perfect for what we do.”

Long form is more open and broad. Starting with a suggestion from the audience, the group develops an improv scenario that builds as it happens.

“In long form, what you’re trying to do is find the game in the scene,” says Daniel Abramson, SNAFU member and radio-television-film senior. “You’re given a blank canvas.”

Regardless of the format, Abramson claims that the secret to any successful improv show is for the performers to keep their minds blank. “You shouldn’t have anything in your mind,” Abramson says. “The moment you have anything in your mind, you’re already ruined.”

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Rubber Duckies Raise Funds for the Boys & Girls Club of Austin

By Jamie Balli, Breanna Luna, Briana Franklin and Silvana Di Ravenna

It was a cold, Saturday morning as rain covered the empty streets of downtown Austin. The city seemed to be sleeping but under Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, commonly referred to as “The Bat Bridge” by Austinites, the very first Austin Duck Derby was taking place.


A boat filled with VIP spectators awaits the start of the Austin Duck Derby 2014 . The event Benefitted the Boys & Girls Club Foundation. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

At the event, several people walked around sporting yellow duck-beak whistles while others were dressed in duck-themed attire. The event also featured a duck mascot available for pictures, dancing, and entertainment.

The Austin Duck Derby, held on Nov.15, launched a mass of more than 10,000 yellow rubber ducks into Lady Bird Lake. The ducks raced to the finish line to win prizes for their adopters. The ducks, which were bombarded into the water from the top of the bridge, marveled the kids and parents that happily awaited near the shore, bundled in hats and furry coats.

Besides the colorful spectacle that the event provided, which also included face painting, hula hoopers and live music, the purpose of the race had a serious goal in mind: to raise much needed fundings for the Boys and Girls Club Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and provides assistance to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

Every year, over 12,000 kids (and over 1,700 each day) are nurtured and taken care of in 22 welcoming Austin locations, which provide hope and opportunity to children ages 6 to 18. The centers offer various classes and activities including leadership development, arts, health and recreational sports. The club relies on volunteers who offer their time as coaches, tutors and activities assistants.


Kelly St. Julien, the East Austin Boys & Girls Club Director, said that all the funds for the Austin Duck Derby go to the Boys & Girls Club Foundation of Austin. They use funds to support programs in the clubs and to cover the large amount of expenses.

“At clubs, our biggest expense is payroll of staff and supplies. We have a lot of overhead in terms of consumables like paint, crayons, pencils, paper, basketballs, jump-ropes, and everything you can think of that kids like to play with. There are a lot of kind people in Austin who donate, but we need things on a regular basis,” St. Julien said.

At the Boys & Girls Club in East Austin, funds raised go towards drum sets, pool tables, ping pong tables, marbles, basketballs, and school supplies for classes taught by instructors. When they are not in class learning, children are able to play sports and games with other children.

11-year-old Sanoya, a member of the East Austin club, said that her favorite part of going to the Boys & Girls Club is the extracurricular activities.

“I like playing ping pong when I come to the club because it’s really fun,” Sanoya said.

Gina Hill, the Special Events Chair for the Boys and Girls Club Foundation, mentioned at the event that this was the first time the Duck Derby has benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of Austin. The Duck Derby races, which have been going on for 26 years, have been used during similar fundraisers across the nation in other cities for the Special Olympics and food banks.

A dancing duck was at the event to groove to the music. Several attendees took pictures and danced with the duck. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

“We are very excited to have raised 10,000 ducks and about $50,000 total in this effort today. This money goes into the programs that help the clubs kids. We hope that the event also helps raise awareness for the Boys and Girls Club of Austin,” she said.

The event was sponsored by more than 35 local national and local business, which provided prizes for the race. Sponsors included Amy’s Ice Cream, Whole Foods and the Austin Fire Department.

Participants had the opportunity to “adopt” a racing rubber duck for $5 dollars with the chance of winning anything from a round of golf at Palmer Lakeside Golf Course to a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.

Andrew Garvin, who used to attend the Boys and Girls Club during his youth and currently does PR and Consulting on his own, became this year’s official promoter and face of The Austin Duck Derby.

He decided to participate in the race when Gina Hill herself invited him to join in at a different event. He said that the experience was the perfect opportunity to give back to an organization that did so much for him.

Andrew Garvin, the official promoter and face of the Austin Duck Derby, stands near the duck race and takes observations of the event’s success. Garvin used to attend the Boys & Girls Club during his youth and hopes to give back as much as possible to the organization in order to help other children who are in similar situations that he faced growing up. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna.

“If it wasn’t for the Boys and Girls Club I wouldn’t be where I am today. I lived in a low-income house and we didn’t have a basketball court or gym equipment, computers, assistance nor tutoring. The club gave us a place to be and it was a good social setting for kids that didn’t have that opportunity outside of class or outside school,” Garvin said.

According to St. Julien, the Austin Duck Derby is a way to get the entire community involved while informing them of what the club does. It is also a fun event that is easy to take part in.

“We really wanted to make our fundraising more accessible to everyone. Only so many people can attend our Boys and Girls Club spring luncheon, our fall gala, and our golf tournament. The duck derby serves a dual purpose of getting the word out about who we are to people who might not know us while allowing people to support us, and culminate that in a fun way,” St. Julien added.

Duck Derby Video from Briana Franklin on Vimeo.



All the Art in Austin is Fine

Piece created by Rone, an artist originally from Australia who is famous for doing portraits. The piece is located on the corner of 5th and Pedernales street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

Piece created by Rone, an artist originally from Australia who is famous for doing portraits. The piece is located on the corner of 5th and Pedernales street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

When it comes to fine art and street art in Austin, the lines get a little blurry.

A sense of vibrant creativity has defined Austin for many years now. The city is best known for its colorful live music scene, filled with artists working in a variety of genres. But more recently, Austin has staked out a reputation for being a place for the advancement and exploration of art.

Austin’s famed Castle Hill Graffiti Park on Baylor Street downtown exemplifies this. The large collection of graffiti and street art is now considered a local destination, something tourists and travelers passing through make a point of seeing before they leave.

Street art, such as that which is on display at the park, has spread throughout Austin. Murals around town, like the University Co-op at the University of Texas campus, serve as examples of street art’s influence.

But as Austin grows and more people bring their business to the city, a new market has emerged for private commissions, pieces tailored more for an individual than for public perusal. Thus began the demand for Austin’s artists to produce fine art.

This piece done by Sloke, Rei, and Spain is located behind Kasbah Hookah Lounge on 28th and Guadalupe street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

This piece done by Sloke, Rei, and Spain is located behind Kasbah Hookah Lounge on 28th and Guadalupe street.The camel is designed to compliment the Moroccan lounge. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

Jake Bryer of Austin Art Garage sees fine art as being far different from its street cousin.

“There are some defining characteristics separating street art and fine art,” Bryer said. “Street art is more about communicating on a large scale with the general public, while fine art is more about connecting on an individual level.”

This separation makes for some important differences in the actual creation of each piece. While fine art is meant to be owned by an individual and must suit the taste of a buyer, street art can be created free from such concerns. An artist is better able to communicate their own message or push perceived boundaries.

But there are financial issues which must be considered. For all the good a message sent might do, it won’t necessarily put food on the table. And even if an artist does decide to focus on monetary gain, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to sustain themselves.

Rachel Stephens of the Wally Workman Gallery sees many artists who face these kinds of struggles, and attributes some of that difficulty to a customer base that can’t keep up with the number of aspiring creators in town.

“Even today, very few galleries are able to survive because the collector base is still somewhat limited,” Stephens said.

Stephens sees adaptability as key for local artists trying to make a career out of their passion.

“I think that many Austin artists become jacks of all trades, as not many of them have been able to support themselves solely with their fine art,” Stephens said.

Artists may also be helped by having a willingness to expand the breadth of their work. Some residents who have an appreciation for Austin’s reputation for public art displays may wish to see similar works commissioned for themselves, blurring the line between art that is categorized as “fine” or “street.”

The Virgin Mary, a piece created by Sloke and Rei, is located on Cesar Chavez and Pedernales street. It was created with other art pieces around the wall that are dedicated in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

The Virgin Mary, a piece created by Sloke and Rei is located on Cesar Chavez and Pedernales street. It was created with other art pieces around the wall that are dedicated in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

“Who really defines fine art? I think the pieces of street art that go beyond self-serving graffiti and intelligently speak to a larger context can be considered fine art,” Stephens said.

While this may be true, Bryer is quick to note that, in his experience working in a gallery, he has found that not everything that works on the side of a brick wall can be expected to sell and generate income for an artist. Even if it isn’t purely self-serving.

“Not everyone wants a skull painting in their kitchen,” Bryer said.

While making it work as an artist and finding the right middle ground between one’s passions and the realities of the art business may be difficult, it can be done. Roshi K works as an artist in Austin and has produced many commissioned pieces for clients, such as Fun Fun Fun Fest and the Victoria Festival. She has found that the key to transitioning from working on the street to being a professional may lie in making the right connections and aggressively pursuing clients.

“(You need to) do well at marketing yourself and putting yourself out there, and you’re working and talking with people, which means you can’t be shy,” Roshi said.

Roshi also emphasizes the importance of striking the right balance between quality and quantity, producing enough to work to create a healthy reputation while also making sure that each piece is up to one’s standards.

And having some talent doesn’t hurt either.

“It’s one of those things where if you’re producing a ton of amazing pieces, of course that’s going to be more likely to catch a lot of people’s attention,” Roshi said.

Austin Yogis Unite at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival

Don’t Judge a Book Festival By Its Cover

By Daniel Jenkins, Shelby Custer, Jonny Cramer and Helen Fernandez

There’s one weekend in the month of October that brings together all the bookworms in Texas.


The Texas Book Festival was established in 1995 by a woman named Laura Bush. The former first lady came up with the idea of this festival as a way of honoring Texas authors.


A festival attendee browses books under a tent at the festival. Photo by Shelby Custer.

This past weekend, from Oct. 25-26, the Texas Book Festival drew many fiction aficionados to the Texas State Capitol grounds.

With almost over 300 featured authors at the festival this year the event proved that people are still interested in the tangible object that is a book. The neat thing about this festival is that all of the books that are presented have been published within the last 18 months. The festival is a way of showcasing new, fresh talent. And that keeps curious book lovers coming back every year.

Steph Opitz, the literary director for the Texas Book Festival is in charge of booking the authors and planning the programs that take place during the festival. She says that this year’s festival was a little larger than last year’s since it included 50 more authors.

The Texas Book Festival isn’t just about books. As made clear by this year’s array of events happening on the festival grounds.

“With any festival in Austin there are going to be food trucks. Cooking is another way to showcase and celebrate the books that are at the Festival (we have a lot of cookbooks every year), and games grab the attention of, possibly, less fervent readers,” said Opitz.

With a staff of four and approximately 800 volunteers, the festival proves that people in Austin are committed to planning an event that unites people from all around the world who share one similar interest.


People enjoy a discussion panel with Chase Untermeyer, former United States Ambassador to Qatar, on president precedents . Photo by Shelby Custer.

The city of Austin plays a huge part in creating a culture that respects and supports the Texas Book Festival. The festival partners with nonprofits, media outlets, local businesses and schools to plan out a weekend of quality events that are appealing to readers and authors alike. The festival ends up donating money to Texas libraries to “support collection enhancement and to implement or continue innovative literacy and technology programs for our Texas public libraries.”

The Texas Book Festival manages to raise money for libraries through fundraising and working with companies to put on events throughout the year. About $2.6 million has been donated in the past. “These grants greatly benefit the library and enable them to share the importance of literature with a wide variety of people in their community,” as states on the Texas Book Festival website.

Aside from donating money, the festival has started a program called Reading Rock Stars, which brings selected authors from across the country to read their work to students in economically-disadvantaged public schools. At the end of the reading, each child receives an autographed copy of the book and the school library gets to keep a set of books as well.

People browse through books at one of the tents at the Texas Book Festival Photo by Shelby Custer

People browse through books at one of the tents at the Texas Book Festival Photo by Shelby Custer

Already in its 19th year, the festival continues to please kids and parents by providing an event where they can both spend quality time together. Opitz says the festival’s ultimate goal is to “raise money for Texas Libraries and to raise money for our Reading Rock Stars program. We also hope to engage more readers and celebrate new books.”

With such a dedicated audience coming to the book festival every year, it’s hard to believe that books are becoming unpopular. The Austin literary scene keeps growing with small, independent presses popping up left and right. Opitz describes the literary scene as “bustling with lots of writers and readers, literary magazines, small presses, and people who are enthusiastic about their work and the work of their Austin neighbors.”

So although e-book sales are rising, books don’t seem like they’ll be going out of style anytime soon.



Saying “I Do” and Graduating Too

By Heather Dyer, Olivia Suarez, Juan Cortez, Claire Edwards and Briana Denham

For most people in college, planning a wedding doesn’t go further than making a “dream wedding” board on Pinterest and occasionally tuning in for a Say Yes to the Dress episode on TLC. While most students would scoff at the idea of getting married in college, a select few don’t cringe away from the idea, but rather embrace it.

Cheryl and Ryan were married in January but got engaged while both were in college. Photo by Heather Dyer.

Student Kiera Dieter and her recently graduated fiance,Timothy Wallner, have no hesitations for their December wedding. For Wallner marriage was always the ultimate goal when he first started dating Dieter, even if it meant getting married before Dieter graduated.

 “The people we hang out with aren’t that surprised because a lot of our friends are getting engaged too,” said Dieter. They receive shocked responses from fellow students and coworkers, but neither have been deterred from their decision to get married.

Dieter and Wallner aren’t alone when it comes to getting engaged while still in college. Jordan Acosta, a student from UT’s law school, joins the ranks after getting engaged to her fiance Salina Cram.

Having lived with her fiance for two years, she has no fears of things changing between them. “My mom always told me growing up: ‘Marry someone weird.’” Though her mother’s words come off a little vague, Acosta describes the advice as finding someone who tilts their head to the side and sees the world a little differently. Something she’s confident she’s found in Salina.

 When asked why she wanted to get engaged, Acosta responds with a composed and thought out answer inspired by the movie Up in The Air, starring George Clooney. She realized, “It’s good to be responsible for someone other than yourself. Life is a lonely game if there’s no one to play it with.”

 Though waiting to get married after she and her fiance both graduate, she doesn’t find it odd for students to get married while in college.

 “It’s not uncommon to be engaged at 21, nor is it uncommon to not be married at 28. Everyone has a different timeline,” Acosta responds.

 For Cheryl and Ryan Willett, that timeline occurred during their senior year at UT. After returning back to Austin from their hometown in Kansas City, Ryan Willett proposed to Cheryl McGiffin, at the time, as he came down the escalators at the airport.

 “I knew I wanted to do it in a semi-public place because I knew you would like the crowd,” he jokes while looking at his wife.

 By October they started planning their January wedding in Kansas City all the way from Austin as they finished up their fall semester. Cheryl Willett admits it was crazy juggling both the wedding planning and schoolwork, especially as an architecture major.

 Similar to Dieter and Wallner, neither of the Willet’s friends were shocked by proposal. The most humorous responses came from Cheryl Willett’s architecture friends.

 “The idea of being married or even being engaged in college was so shocking to them. So one of the girls was like ‘wait so are you two going to like, live together once you guys get married’ and I was like ‘um do your parents live together?’”

 From the perspective of both Ryan and Cheryl Willett, there hasn’t been much of a transition into married life.

 “A lot of my single friends think of this huge you got this whole other person now living with you, but they don’t see it from the perspective that you’ve dated and developed a relationship with someone for years,” says Ryan Willett.

 From a professional stand point, Dr. Susan Jennings states that marrying while in college can have positive and negative consequences for many reasons.

 If each person is mature psychologically, marriage can be a great thing between younger individuals. If either one isn’t, it can be disastrous. “Marriage requires attending to the needs of another person as well as oneself. A lot of understanding, generosity of spirit, and compromise will be required. These pressures will expose the character and maturity as well as weaknesses of an individual and will force a person to stand up and grow, or not,” Jennings states.


If a couple is mature and committed to staying together, they have the opportunity to grow up together and build their futures with the one they love. Most college students who get engaged and married before graduation are aware of these struggles while preparing for not only a wedding, but for a life together.

 “I expect there to be tension at times because this is something new, but I also think that through that tension we’ll get to know each other better. And that’s one of those things we have to remember because if we forget it, it’s going to tear us apart,” says Wallner.

Click photos to hear engagement stories

Celeste Krimsky admires the ring her fiance, Christian Guth, proposed to her with in August. Photo By: Briana Denham

Celeste Krimsky admires the ring her fiance, Christian Guth, proposed to her with this August. Photo by Briana Denham.

Dean Luttrell and Beth Vaca can't help, but moon over each other moments after Dean proposed. Photo By: Beth Vaca

Dean Luttrell and Beth Vaca can’t help but moon over each other moments after Dean proposed. Photo by Beth Vaca.



Even after being married for almost a year, Cheryl and Ryan Willett still can’t get enough of each other. Photo by  Heather Dyer. 

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