Category: Local Arts

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


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.’”



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.










Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Austin Community Revamps “Free Art Friday”

Story package by Taylor Villarreal, Trisha Zyrowski, and Samantha Grasso

Shot by Taylor Villarreal
Edited by Samantha Grasso

Austin Art Community Saves “Free Art Friday” From Extinction

Story by Trisha Zyrowski

When you walk into Nicole Clark’s living room, you’ll see a dozen pieces of art that she didn’t pay for. No, Clark isn’t a high-class art thief. However, she is an artist and active participant in Austin’s weekly event Free Art Friday.

During Free Art Friday, local artists make small pieces of art, like paintings and cross-stitching, and hide them in various spots around Austin on Fridays.

After taking a photo of their art and its hiding space, the artist uploads the photo to their Instagram account with the hashtag #ATXFreeArtFriday. Following the hashtag, Austinites can see what art is being hidden, and can follow clues as to where they can find it by looking at the Instagram photos. While many people may show up to the “drop” site to claim these art pieces, only one is the victor.

Free Art Friday hiding spots where artists commonly “drop” off art

Infographic by Trisha Zyrowski

While Free Art Friday allows Austinites to get in on some free artwork, the weekly event also gives artists the chance to share their original work with their Instagram followers and connect with other artists. Christine Muñoz, a Los Angeles expat, is an artist who moved to Austin in January.

Though only having lived in Austin for three months, Muñoz says people in the art community are much nicer than in Los Angeles, and that Free Art Friday has already allowed her to get connected within the local art scene.

“I feel like in LA people are super focused, very greedy, like, ‘It’s my success, I don’t want to share it,’” but Muñoz recalls with appreciation that Austin artists took her “under their wings,” immediately.

“I’m going to call Austin home for awhile,” Muñoz says.

Free Art Friday in Austin was started around two years ago by SprATX, a collective group of local street artists who “fill empty spaces with positive messages and beautiful art,” according to their website.

The concept of Free Art Friday is not unique to Austin—Atlanta, Georgia’s thriving scene began their Free Art Fridays in March 2013, according to their Facebook page.

While Austin’s branch of the weekly event quickly expanded under SprATX’s leadership, participation in Free Art Friday began to see a swift decline from both artists and art finders about a year ago.

Nicole Clark, who is also a manager for Austin’s Free Art Friday Instagram account, said the decline was most evident when SprATX became more busy and was no longer able to promote Free Art Friday on their own Instagram account.

Clark also says that before the weekly event’s decline, artists used to create larger pieces of art, eventually putting in large amounts of time, energy, and money (from art supplies) into a piece to just be given to someone for free. When that no longer became sustainable to full-time artists, they began hiding smaller art pieces and trinkets.

Unfortunately, the art finding community wasn’t interested in spending their time to find such small pieces, Clark says.

Together, these two variables created an unsustainable climate for Free Art Friday, further creating disconnect in the local art community.

Clark says she felt discouraged seeing so little participation in Free Art Friday, but she wouldn’t let this be the end of the new Austin tradition. Six weeks ago, Clark and two other local artists took it upon themselves to reboot the weekly event, the trio becoming the main organizers while still housing the project under SprATX.

Already, their new Instagram account to promote and encourage Free Art Friday between artists and art fans alike has amassed over 1,100 followers.

“People want to do it and they’re really into it, it’s just a matter of retraining expectations and retraining the culture,” Clark says.

“That kind of stuff makes us feel like this is why we’re doing it, this is why it’s so important to us, because those kids see that street art isn’t a bad thing.” – Nicole Clark

Instagram user and artist @THIS_BIRD_ has nearly 1,200 followers, his design of his trade being simple designs of birds. Clark refers to this artist as the “MVP” of their reboot: “So many people recognize his work.”

Many of his followers are families with kids who like to try and recreate his colorful, playful birds. His followers are always on the lookout for his canvases throughout the city, and take pictures with them once they’re found.

“That kind of stuff makes us feel like this is why we’re doing it, this is why it’s so important to us, because those kids see that street art isn’t a bad thing,” Clark says. “Their parents show them that it doesn’t mean you’re a thug or a gangster or whatever, just because you paint on an abandoned building.”

Many local artists believe Free Art Friday has given them a chance to share positivity, contribute to their community and connect with their supporters.

“All the time and dedication I’m putting into this, all the emotion, all the feeling, it’s gonna be in someone else’s hands. But being able to let it go, that’s awesome. That’s dedication,” Muñoz says. “Those are things I aspire to do, like being able to get to that point in life [where art is] just all growth. It’s not easy to come by that stuff.”

When local artists appear negative to the idea of giving away their art for free, Clark says she tries to persuade them by discussing the potential impact an artist could have in connecting with other local artists and art fans through Free Art Friday.

When an artist drops a popular piece of work, many people will rush to that location “in a matter of minutes,” Clark says. “The cool thing is bringing everyone together, not just the artists… Why would you wanna cut yourself off from those experiences?”

Looking toward the future, Austin’s Free Art Friday’s reboot team is inspired by Atlanta’s Thankful Thursday event. As a way to show appreciation for local artists, the Atlanta community hides art supplies for local artists on Thursdays—paints, brushes, pastels, and other tools that aren’t easy to come by as a full-time artist. Clark hopes to get the Austin program started soon.

“Only Austin can do it the way Austin does it,” Muñoz says.

The Austin Economic Impact of Artists

*Source: “The Economic Impact of the Creative Sector in Austin, Texas.” Austin Texas Government. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

The History of Street Art

*Source: Brown, Jordan. “Street Art.” Street Art. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
Infographics by Trisha Zyrowski


#ATXFreeArtFriday in Stills

Photos by Taylor Villarreal

Texas Tai Chi touts health benefits, balance

By: J.D. Harris, Anthony Green, Julia Bernstein

With every slow, rhythmic punch and sweeping kick, the students and faculty of the University of Texas at Austin seem to feel the stress caused by life on campus melt away. While some students and faculty choose to participate in campus exercise programs such as yoga and Pilates to destress, others are turning to the Chinese martial art of tai chi to reduce their stress levels.

Jen Shipman, a UT faculty member and leader of Texas Tai Chi, an on-campus tai chi program at UT, said the Chinese martial art of tai chi helps to relax the mind and body at the end of hard work days.

“We’ve got stressful jobs and so it’s nice to have that hour break where we’re not having to think about what work we need to do and instead just focus on healing ourselves from the inside,” Shipman said.

According to Natalie Durkin, a tai chi instructor with Master Gohring’s Tai Chi & Kung Fu in Austin, tai chi is classified into five styles and each style is named after the family who taught it. The five families include the Chen, Yang, Sun, Wu, and Wu-Xiang.

The birthplace of the Chen family, who represent the historical origins of all five traditional schools of Tai Chi. Their fusion of Chinese philosophical elements with martial arts training made Tai Chi a novel art form in the 1800s.

The birthplace of the Chen family, who represent the historical origins of all five traditional schools of Tai Chi. Their fusion of Chinese philosophical elements with martial arts training made Tai Chi a novel art form in the 1800s.

Texas Tai Chi mainly focuses on the Yang style.

“It is the more upright style of tai chi where you’re staying shoulders above hips. It’s probably the most common one,” Shipman said.

Although Texas Tai Chi began only seven years ago, tai chi has been practiced for centuries.

Durkin explained that tai chi has its origin in one of the oldest Chinese legends predating the 12th century. Durkin said that according to the legend, while a monk was walking through a forest he stumbled upon a fight between a snake and a crane. As he watched the snake and the crane, he observed how each animal’s defensive behaviors benefited them and realized how complimentary and effective these defenses were against each other. Inspired by the movements of the snake and crane, the monk created tai chi, which translates to “Supreme Ultimate Fist.”

According to Durkin, tai chi differs from other martial art forms because its movements are softer than those of karate or taekwondo and its participants are not meant to expend tons of energy; instead, energy is meant to be “channeled inward for personal health.”

The philosophy of Tai Chi is one that discourages the use of outright brute force to stop an opponent’s advances. Such fighting methods are seen in Tai Chi as swaying away from the paramount natural balance of Yin and Yang. Instead, students are taught to meet brute force with softness—adapting to their opponent’s motions until their energy is exhausted or redirected.

The philosophy of Tai Chi is one that discourages the use of outright brute force to stop an opponent’s advances. Such fighting methods are seen in Tai Chi as swaying away from the paramount natural balance of Yin and Yang.

Shipman also noted that tai chi differs from other martial arts because tai chi is open to people of all ages and with varying levels of experience.

No matter age or experience, tai chi is proven to have multiple health benefits both physically and mentally.

“From my own personal experience, I can say that although I earned a black belt in taekwondo many years ago, and already had good reflexes and balance, they have been enhanced 10 fold since becoming a tai chi practitioner,” said Durkin. “I am lighter on my feet; my arthritic knees are better than they have been in years. Mentally, I have better clarity, I have the ability to see a problem from a variety of perspectives and to hang out before trying to control an outcome.”

In tai chi, it is critical to coordinate body movements with breathing.

“It’s beneficial for helping for balance. It’s beneficial for all kinds of health benefits, with your breathing, more body awareness because it’s not one of those fast paced martial art forms,” Shipman said.

UT students, Stephanie Lish and Alejandra Duarte, agree that offering tai chi classes is a benefit for UT students and faculty. They also said that they feel like Texas Tai Chi is valuable because it adds to the variety of exercise programs that UT offers.

“I know there’s people that would enjoy that,” Lish said.

“There’s a lot of people on campus so I think it’s a good idea,” Duarte said. “You have to have a lot of different things.”

Students and faculty can find Texas Tai Chi in the Student Activity Center (SAC), Dance Room (2.310) every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

No registration required.

Keep Austin Bearded

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec


Music blared, drinks flowed freely and hair filled the Mohawk on Feb. 20.

Nearly 1,000 people packed the downtown Austin venue for the 10th annual Come and Shave It beard competition.

The Come and Shave It event, which is organized by the Austin Facial Hair Club, is one of largest beard competitions in the country. The 2016 event attracted more than 220 competitors from all around the United States and the world.

MJJohnson2 (1)

Kevin Becker, from East Haven, Connecticut, finished in third place in the beard under a foot category and said he came to the event because of its magnitude in the beard community.

“I just started competing last year and I heard this was a very big competition so me and a couple other guys from Connecticut, we all came down,” Becker said. “It’s been great.”

Both the Austin Facial Hair Club and the Come and Shave It event have grown in their first 10 years. The club started with four members and now has 50 dedicated members. The original event was started by Misprint magazine, a now defunct publication, and was held at Club de Ville, which is now Cheer Up Charlies. The event quickly outgrew its old venue and moved to the larger Mohawk. 

Bryan Nelson, president of the Austin club and one of the original four founders, said the event originally began as a spoof but grew in popularity. He said the city quickly embraced the event.

“I think Austin has always been a beardy place,” Nelson said. “It’s always been a more of relaxed lifestyle in Austin. You can go into a restaurant and see them in a T-shirt and jeans or something like that. The beard culture itself is pretty strong. Normally guys get pretty proud of their beard. It’s kind of fun to celebrate them.”Beards (1)

Brett Strauss, commissioner of the Facial Hair League, which helps clubs organize beard competitions, said the key to the Come and Shave It event is its dedication to philanthropy. Strauss said most of the beard clubs are set up around raising money for non-profit causes. “If it was just about the beards, I don’t think there would so much commitment and so many people traveling the way they do,” Strauss said.

Nelson said that both the club and the Come and Shave It event have helped multiple charities over the past 10 years. He said they’ve helped with Wounded Warriors, SXSW Cares and the Austin Animal Center, among others.

“We just try to help out community where we can,” Nelson said. “We try to keep it real in Austin. We’re not registered as non-profit but we operate like a non-profit … We just try to have fun and ‘Keep Austin Beard.’”

The charity aspect of the event is important, but the fun keeps the event going. Strauss said he enjoys going to the Austin event because it’s one of the biggest competitions of the year. He also said the time he spends at beard competitions remind him of his college days.

“For me it’s like going back to college for the weekend,” Strauss said. “My mother-in-law watches my kids. I take my wife. We head out of town. And we go and hang out with some wonderful people and drink beer and have fun. It’s just like going back to college. I really enjoy spending time with these people.”

The Austin club and event has helped the beard community grow and “Kept Austin Beard” for the past 10 years and they’re being rewarded for it.  Austin will host the World Beard and Mustache Championships in 2017, which Nelson is excited about.

“It’s been years in the making,” Nelson said.



Graphic Maps by: Kaylee Nemec


How Beards are Judged: A Q&A with Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss

Understanding how a beard competition works is confusing. To help shave the nitty-gritty, Facial Hair League commissioner Brett Strauss discussed how competitions work.

Strauss, a former beard competition judge, discussed a variety of beard competition topics to help get a better understanding of how judging works, what judges look for and much more.


Q: How does judging work?

A: “It’s kind of like Olympic style judging, where each competitor is given a score between seven and 10 on the half-point: 7.5, 8, 8.5. You’re picking the first, second and third out of your final group for each category and you submit it and everything is calculated.”


Q: How does fan-voting work?

A: “The fan-voting is something we call ‘fantasy facial hair,’ which is like fantasy football where instead of picking players that’ll play the best, you’ll pick competitors. You’re going to pick the ones that you think are going to win first, second and third in each category. The closer you are to matching the judges themselves, the more points you get.”


Q: How many beard categories are there?

A: “I would say there are probably around 24 standard categories and there a probably just as many unique categories. The standard categories can include mustache, natural mustache, freestyle mustache, chops, beards, many different categories. Then you have the unique categories, which are things like some clubs will do world’s worst beard. Some people will do Texas red beard, salt-and-pepper for the gray and white beards. So there are some fun ones out there.”


Q: Which categories have the most competitors?

A: “Most competitions, you’re going to get 50 percent of your competitors competing in two categories. It really depends on how the clubs set them up. Usually, it’s, if you’ve got an under-12 inch full beard natural – that’s a very large group of people that have 12-inch or shorter beards. That’s probably going to be your largest group. Then, I’d say the second largest would be the 12-inch or over 12-inch full beard.”


Q: What do judges look for when judging?

A: “It depends. If you’re going for a full-beard natural then basically what you’re saying is it’s someone that does not do any type of cutting, shaving, cleaning up. It’s kind of an unruly set of people. These are people that don’t shave the cheek. They don’t shave under their neck. They just kind of let it absolutely go. So in that case, you’re actually looking for people that are more unkempt. You’re looking for length. Obviously, you want the beard to healthy. Volume helps as well. If you’re looking at another category like styled, or best-groomed beard, then you’re doing the exact opposite. You’re actually looking for people that have perfect beard shapes and have cleaned the cheek up. They have perfect straight lines that are matching.”


Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

Moovly created By: Sara Eunice Martinez

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

ASL in American Theatre

By: Alejandra Martinez, Kristen Hubby, Jayelyn Jackson, and Taylor Villarreal



Tribes, a theatrical play by Nina Raine, is the story of Billy who is the only deaf member in his family. In the play Billy lives with his parents who believe that integrating him into the deaf community would only stunt his personal growth. Because his father did not want him to be defined by his deafness, Billy never learned sign language.

Stephen Drabicki, a hard of hearing actor, plays Billy in Tribes and has been wearing hearing aids in both ears since he was 4 years-old. Drabicki has been acting since 1998, and has acted in six tours of Tribes.

Drabicki worked as an actor taking roles mostly with mainstream, hearing theatres. According to him, most theatres are not always able to accommodate a deaf or hard of hearing person due to the fact that the theatres have not worked with very many deaf or hard of hearing people.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance. 

“Often times [there are actors that] win an Oscar for portraying a disability when there’s actually actors with that same disability who are just as talented,” Drabicki said. “They get overlooked because they are not a big enough name or because able bodied directors are too scared to give them a chance.”

In 2013, hearing actors were cast as the role of Billy in the production of Tribes at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and the Oregon Contemporary Theatre. At the time this evoked negative reactions from both hearing and deaf people alike, including the original Billy in Raine’s first performance of Tribes.

“This is interesting…. As the original Billy for the West End London, the play was a rave. It became one of the most watched plays of the year,” Jags Cassie commented on Facebook. “So why the sudden change of heart for a hearing actor to play a deaf character? I would even fly over [and] perform again, anytime!”

“One of the things that’s very important to me with [the business of visual interpretation] is making sure that I always have deaf people involved,” Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC owner Marianna Craig said. “I pay them first. I’ve done many shows where I pay the interpreters and I don’t pay myself because its most important to me know we are doing this with them and not for them and it’s for the both us.”

Stephen Drabicki gets mic’d before his performance in Tribes


Visual Voice Interpreting is a sign language interpreting agency in Austin, Texas focused on providing the community with interpreting services in the performance industries, particularly music and theatre. Marianna Craig, the Founder for Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC says she was inspired to create her company in 2012 when she saw a deaf interpreter perform.

According to Craig, deaf and hard of hearing people can reach the same capabilities as hearing people without being able to hear and without equal opportunities in the workforce.



Stage worker checking the lights and sounds during the TRIBES rehearsal. -Kristen Hubby


Austin, Texas is known amongst actors as a “deaf friendly” community, likely because over 20 percent of deaf or hard of hearing Texans live in Austin. Additionally, according to Texas School for the Deaf Foundation, over 20 of the 300 deaf-owned businesses in the U.S. are located in Austin.

“[The awareness of the deaf community] is definitely increasing,” Craig said, “I think [American Sign Language] is attractive and is growing in popularity. It’s becoming a [form of] pop culture now.”


As crowds line up to take their seats, the actors prepare for a night in the spotlight. -Kristen Hubby





Deaf and HH Statistics


Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter.

Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter. -Taylor Villarreal


The Wurst Festival in Texas

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times at this year’s 52nd annual Wurstfest, a celebration of all things German.

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

A group of friends joins in with the rest of the crowd by holding their cups in the air to make a toast while singing along to the traditional “Ein Prosit” song. Photo by: Erin MacInerney

By: Morgan Bridges, Erin Griffin, Erin MacInerney, Jamie Pross

(Click to listen to the Chardon Polka Band perform live in the Stelzenplatz Biergarten at Wurstfest)

(Click to watch a first-person view of the festival)

NEW BRAUNFELS- Sprechen sie fun? Hint: say yes!

Don’t worry, you needn’t speak German to enjoy the revelry of Wurstfest, the 10-day salute to sausage.

But if you really want to delve into the culture that makes up this Oktoberfest- inspired event, knowing a few phrases will help you to fit in among the lederhosen clad festival-goers.

The small town of New Braunfels, Texas welcomes over 100,000 visitors to the festival each November.

Wurstfest Lingo-FinalThe smell of kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), strudel, schnitzel, and other dishes you may have a hard time pronouncing, waft throughout the tents of the festival grounds.

For people like Sammi Guerrero, Wurstfest is an annual family tradition.

“I have been going every year since I was born,” says Guerrero. “My whole family goes at least three days out of the ten days it is held each year.”

Guerrero’s 21-year streak (or 22 if you count the time she was still in her mother’s belly) is nothing compared to her father, Roland, who has been going every year since the early 1970’s.

Roland’s father, Larry Guerrero, has been joining the family for as long as he can remember. Larry may use a walker but the minute Grammy Award-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra start playing, Guerrero can’t help but get up and dance.

“Everyone loves my grandpa and when they see him dancing, they can’t help but join,” says Sammi Guerrero. “I love getting to come with him each year and watch him make people smile.”

One of the Guerrero’s favorite parts of the festival is sharing a pitcher of German lager. Roland recounts when a pitcher of beer was a dollar compared to the now almost 30 dollar pitchers being sold.

While grandpa dances to the polka music, the rest of the family heads to the biergarten, part of the newly renovated Stelzenplatz hall.

With more than 30 craft beers from all over the nation and a few specialty German beers, Wurstfest is known for drinking.

Guests make it a point to collect as many plastic beer pitchers as they can down, and that crashing sound you just heard? It was a pyramid of pitchers stacked up falling to the ground, a common sight among the beer hall.

Despite the vast alcohol consumption, Wurstfest Associations members make sure that the fest is centered around good family fun.

Another important part of the festival are the traditional German clothes, lederhosen worn by men and dirndl’s worn by women.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.05.35 AM

Click here to learn more about the history of Wurstfest


“A lot of people want to be dressed up for the event,” says Paula Kater, owner of the Kuckuck’s Nest in Fredericksburg, Texas. “Every year, sales pick up and people want to get more and more into it. Even the younger generations want to dress up.”

Kater emphasizes that the outfits she dresses her customers in are not costumes, but authentic clothing of her heritage.

“Every one is an original straight from Germany,” says Kater.

Kater was impressed to find such a large German influence in the Texas Hill Country when she arrived here from Ludwigshafen, Germany 15 years ago.

She travels all over the nation providing outfits for people attending Okterberfest events but says Wurstfest has always been her favorite.

“Wurstfest is one of the biggest,” says Kater. “It is the elite of all of them, even the ones up north.”

Lederhosen & Dirndl-Final


(A supplementary video from Wurstfest. How to sing one of the favorite songs, Ein Prosit!)



Scare for a Cure: Blood, Sweat and Fear

By: Estephanie Gomez, Estefania de Leon, Raylee Elder, and Karla Pulido

Blood, Sweat and Fear
By: Estephanie Gomez

The black night sky engulfs a run-down ghost town. Screams fill the October air. Guests laugh as they walk towards their cars, clothes stained with red. This isn’t your average charity event. This is Scare for a Cure.

Scare for a Cure is an Austin-based nonprofit that creates an interactive multimedia haunted adventure to raise money for local cancer-related charities and organizations. The program officially began operating as a 501-C3 charity recognized by the IRS in 2007, but the program began to ride the success of spooks and scares for charity years before.

Jarrett Crippen, co-founder and president of Scare for a Cure, began hosting haunted houses in his own home since the age of 16.

“I’ve always been crazy neighbor that did the over-the-top haunted house, Christmas decorations and any holiday, really,” Crippen said.

Crippen brought this spirit to his current neighborhood when he started his own family. He set up a haunted house every Halloween, and as it expanded, he began to ask for small donations, like a can of food, as the price for entry. According to Crippen, by 2005 the haunted house had grown so much that it had “taken over the neighborhood,” to the point where he had to find a new location for the haunted house. This growth led Crippen to create Scare for a Cure as a legitimate charity.

In the span of four years, Scare for a Cure moved from Crippen’s backyard to Elk’s Lodge to a ghost town in Manor, Texas where it currently remains and haunts today. With the expansion of the program, Crippen set his philanthropic sights higher than a can of food. Scare for a Cure partnered with the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, raising $5,000 for the organization in 2007 during its first official year of operation. In 2010, Scare for a Cure donated $20,000, and this year, Crippen plans on raising $35,000.

The partnership with the Breast Cancer Resource Center came after weeks of scouring through local charities.

“Everyone I called was more than happy to give me an address to mail the check to, but there was no partnership element to it,” Crippen said. “It was disheartening.”

Minutes into his phone call with the BCRC, a coordinator asked to meet with Crippen to see what the center could do to help. According to Crippen, this was the kind of symbiotic relationship he was looking for.

Phyllis Rose, director of volunteer services at the BCRC, has worked with Scare for a Cure since 2008 and sees everyone at Scare as family.

“We’re a beneficiary of theirs, but we consider them much more than that. They’re involved in every step of the way in everything we do, “ Rose said.

Similarly, Rose coordinates groups of BCRC volunteers to help out at the haunted event wherever they can in the event’s long process.

This process includes coming up with a different theme each year, creating characters and their dialogue, making costumes, and designing and building up to 38 different sets and stages. According to Crippen, this begins in January. As a completely volunteer-based organization, most volunteers see the long process as a labor of love; they are there because they want to be.

Christina Wang, a volunteer in the costume department, said she went straight to a volunteer tent and asked to sign up after her first experience as a guest in 2011. According to Wang, the costuming process usually begins in April to be able to deal with problems down the line. However, she regards these challenges as “cool” and as an outlet for her sewing creativity.

Crippen estimated that he himself spent at least 2,500 hours working on Scare for a Cure outside of his day-job as a police detective for the Austin Police Department – a job he spends about 2,080 hours on. Although the event is time consuming, Crippen said he couldn’t imagine life without it.

“There are times I feel like Scare [for a Cure] is a fast-moving train that I can’t just jump off , because it’s so overwhelming, it takes up so much of our lives…but as soon as [it’s] over, I’m ready to dive back into it head-first.”

Photos by: Karla Pulido
Edited by: Estefania de Leon

Austin’s Got Moves: Local Clubs Preserve City’s Dance Culture

By: Shadan Larki, Marisa Martinez,  and Brianna Walker

From Palm-Heels to Pirouettes: How one man’s passion for dance transformed his life — and a local dance club.

The Ben Hur Shrine serves as the Austin headquarters for the Shriners Fraternity. A centuries-old brotherhood, The Shriners are known for their namesake Shriners Hospitals for Children and have called the locale home for the past decade.

However, the brown brick building on Rockwood Lane houses much more than just the Shriners. On Tuesday evenings, the Shriners office closes and the reception room next door becomes the Austin City Dance Club, a non-profit, social dancing organization that offers lessons in West Coast Swing, Country Two-Step, Cha Cha, Nightclub Two-Step, and Hustle.

“Austin City Dance Club follows a model that is different from some other clubs and studios: we pay our talent well. Our bottom line is non-profit, so we don’t worry about being wealthy,” said club ACDC instructor President and Co-Founder Mike Topel.

Austin City Dance Club doesn’t require a membership to get “in the swing,” but signing on does boast some perks. The ACDC offers membership discounts and a special rate for students.

“Our classes skew younger than some of the cities I visit. Its appeal is that younger people have lots of puppy-like exuberance. Older crowds tend to have more money, though…so we trade cash for energy sometimes,” Topel said.

The organization attracts high-level talent instructors to lead their group classes.

“All of our instructors are internationally recognized superstars. Believe it or not, that’s a big deal,” Topel said. “Our instructors visit the rest of the world on a nearly weekly basis; they’re constantly perfecting themselves for an international audience, and constantly experimenting on our local students with some of their freshest stuff.”

Topel is no stranger to life on the road either, so far his 2015 docket has included roughly 20 national competitions, and appearances.

But it hasn’t always been international stages and standing ovations for the Swing, Latin, Country, and American Social dance instructor.

“I danced for the first time at a high school sock hop. I was horrible,” said Topel. “But I got significantly better at a pre-college getaway in 1984 when Prince and Michael Jackson were big and I had a little more inspiration to draw from.”

Topel also counts James Brown and Bob Fosse among his influences. But not all the dancers he watched were pop stars.

“My earliest dance memory is the Lawrence Welk show, and watching my grandparents Foxtrot, Waltz & Polka to some happening bands,” Topel said. “I graduated to [watching]  American Bandstand in the 1970s, then eventually Soul Train.”

By the 90s, Topel found himself no longer just a bystander to dance, but practicing the craft as well.

By 1991, country line-dancing became the thing, and friends and I jumped on that,” Topel said. “Things went downhill from there. As in now I had an addiction I couldn’t control”.

Seven years later, Topel traded his cubicle for a studio and was dancing and teaching full time.

“The best part of teaching is directing the emotions and memories of the students in a class,” Topel said. “Everything learned is reinforced with humor and constructive positivity.”

Topel also holds a second-degree black belt in martial arts and brings that discipline to the dance floor.

“I learned movement control in the martial arts. Learning a routine, basically. That set me up for learning dance sequences,” Topel said. “Plus, a good amount of time was spent on flexibility, strength, stamina and balance.”

Martial arts training also gave Topel an unexpected dose of teaching experience.

“My head instructor insisted on having the black belts teach and trained us in teaching techniques. Also [it taught me] how to learn with an open mind and to take criticism well.”

While being able to take criticism is something Topel values, he says his best students are the ones who aren’t afraid to push back.

“No students stick out unless they heckle me,” Topel says. “And then it’s game on. Really, the only thing that sticks out to me is if the student is engaged or annoyed enough to see me as a punching bag and take a couple of pokes. That person will be somebody someday.”

On any given Tuesday night Topel can be seen greeting people at the front desk in the beginning of the evening, DJing the open dance at the end of the night and even out on the dance floor with the other dancers.

For more information visit

Look & Listen: Texas Tricking Offers A Unique Way to Express Oneself

The Austin City Dance Club isn’t the only organization trying to get Austin moving.

Texas Tricking is a University of Texas at Austin organization with one mission: practice tricking in a welcoming environment. Founding member Justin Park describes what is tricking, and how people can get involved.

For more information, UT students can connect with their Hornslink page or anyone can join their public Facebook group.


Find out what style of dance you should try with our quiz here, and test out your moves at these Austin dance locations:

Use this chart to decipher your results:

Off the Stage: Life After “The Voice”

Cassandra Jaramillo | Jade Magalhaes | Sandy Marin | Jan Ross Piedad


Luke Wade, season 7 contestant of “The Voice,” takes the stage at Stubb’s Barbecue in Feb. with single “Doctor Please” from his album “The River.” [Photo by: Jade Magalhaes]

After the curtains closed, the spotlight stopped shining and the microphones switched to silent on set of one of the most popular talent television shows in America, what stayed behind was a musician’s desire to share his art in its purest form. 

From season 7 of hit NBC show “The Voice”, a soulful artist from a farming community in Dublin, Texas landed a spot among the show’s Top 8 singers. Lucas Anthony Wade, the so-often labeled soulful singer-songwriter has no desire in being classified by such conventional categories, he just wants to be known as Luke Wade.

 “The best thing an artist can do for themselves is make their names a genre,” Luke said. “Look at Ben Harper, Dave Matthews and Incubus. They use their names to describe other people’s music and to describe genres.”

In his 2014 blind audition, Luke turned four chairs and impressed superstar coaches Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton with his version of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Luke ultimately chose singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and fashion designer Pharell WIlliams as his coach. The duo fought through the battle rounds, the knockouts and the live playoffs, but Luke did not come out as the victor.  

Throughout the television journey, Luke did not lose sight of his roots. Music is Wade’s sole focus, but according to the artist, singing and songwriting wasn’t necessarily part of his original life-plan. It was something he stumbled upon.

 “It’s so much more complicated than a year or a time,” Luke said. “I accidentally became a singer, songwriter and musician. All of the music stuff came after my story and my need to find a common thread with other people to make myself feel less alone.”  

In a candid attempt to psychoanalyze himself briefly, Luke describes his young self as the sore thumb in a small town, population 200 at the time. Mom was a dancer, dad was a painter and due to health problems, Luke was a wisp of a little kid.

 “I just wanted to be like everybody else, but I just wasn’t,” Luke said. “I was told to be myself, but there was no middle ground. If I was myself, I would never fit in.”  

Luke’s struggles were amplified in a hot Texas summer at age 13, when his right eye was hit by a paintball. The accident took him out of contact sports, made his physique scrawny and left him half-blind. With the feeling that he had something to prove, Luke took up running. But he ran until he gave himself a heat stroke.

The stroke left emotional scars, but also literally left young Luke without the knowledge of who he was. Or who his parents were.  

“I came back to school and that’s whenever I found art, whenever I found self expression and when I started of instead of looking at everybody else to try and be happy, I started looking at myself,” Luke said.

That turning point led Luke to music.

 After getting his feet wet with writing and performing, the aspiring artist formed the band Luke Wade & No Civilians, with whom he still performs. Together, they produced two albums: “Tomorrow’s Ghosts” and more recently “The River.”  

Many things came out of ”The Voice”. It gave Luke the perfect platform to expose his art,  gain more followers and get invaluable training from coaches and advisors who have, once upon a time, been in his same shoes.

“I learned how to respond to pressure,” Luke said. “No matter how tough things get, ultimately everything is going to be OK. There is no reason to worry about whether you messed up or what someone thinks about a thing that you did, it will all be OK.”

 This November, over a year after walking off “The Voice” stage, Luke found himself in the live music capital of the world while touring the country with his band. After a performance at The Parish, he walked a crowded 6th street and took shots with friend and season 5 contestant Jonny Gray.

There’s no longer thousands of people watching Luke take the stage. But he performs as if there were a million.

Data on Google Searches of First 5 Season Winners   Editor’s Note: The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. A line trending downward means that a search term’s relative popularity is decreasing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of searches for that term is decreasing. It just means its popularity is decreasing compared to other searches.

Interest Over Time on American Music Talent Shows Editor’s Note: The numbers that appear show total searches for a term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. A line trending downward means that a search term’s relative popularity is decreasing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of searches for that term is decreasing. It just means its popularity is decreasing compared to other searches.