Tag: Austin arts

Anthropos Arts–bringing music back to the forefront

By Celina Fontenot, Arthur DeVitalis, Mariana Muñoz and Claire Rodgers

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Arts education has been declining for more than three decades because of tight budget cuts and a common misconception that the arts are beautiful, but not vital to the core curriculum.

Extensive research shows that music education correlates to almost everything we want for children’s cognitive development and demand from our school system: academic achievement and social and emotional growth.

Dylan Jones founded Anthropos Arts in 1998 with a similar idea in mind. The program provides high-quality music education for low-income students. With the help of professional musicians from diverse music genres, Jones is able to give free music lessons to students.

“One of the biggest things for musicians is seeing kids perform and reliving their moments of musical discovery. We get to watch kids to relive those first moments, it’s like a milestone,” Jones says. “Students in poverty face more barriers than most students. We give them a safe haven and something intellectually challenging.”

Seventeen years later, Not only do students get instruction from professional musicians—some even Grammy-winning artists—the students perform at well-known music venues, and events like ACL Festival, SXSW, Shady Grove, Stubb’s, and more.

Aside from musical exposure, students are learning valuable life lessons that prepare them for college and the real world. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. It can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.

Andres Rios, 18, performing at the Pecan Street Festival.

Andres Rios, 18, performing at the Pecan Street Festival.

Andres Rios, an 18-year-old graduating senior in the program feels he has grown immensely from his time at Anthropos.

“When I started Anthropos Arts I had a lot of anxiety with playing in front of people and being in front of a crowd in general. This program taught me how to stay in control and keep comfortable in those types of environments. I feel that music benefited me by making me more creative and expressive in the classroom. It even helped with my public speaking because of my experience of being in front of crowds.”

Carla Pantoja, a 19-year-old graduate from Anthropos reflects on her positive exposure from the arts program.

“I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t play music. I don’t think I would be in college or would have graduated from high school.”

When Jones first started the charity, he didn’t realize what the outcome results would be.

“Now we’ve done it and I’m in year 17 and it works. I encourage people to support. Like these schools, we’re underfunded and need money to help bring these resources to these kids—and it’s a no brainer, we have one of the biggest music scenes here in the world. And we have tons of kids and its absolutely crucial to their development.”

Over the past five years, 100% of their senior students have graduated from high school, and more than 80% enrolled in college on scholarships. There are currently 150 kids on 18 campuses and will have around 20 concerts this year.

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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.

Art studio hosts gala to inspire artists with disabilities

 

Stephen S. proudly displays his bedazzled masterpiece, "Sparkle Chicken" at the Arc of the Arts studio in Austin, Texas. One of Stephen's jeweled sculptures was sold instantly at the Building Bridges silent auction on Oct. 22.

Stephen R. proudly displays his bedazzled masterpiece, “Sparkle Chicken” at the Arc of the Arts studio in Austin, Texas. One of Stephen’s jeweled sculptures was sold instantly at the Building Bridges silent auction on Oct. 22. (Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna)

By Silvana Di Ravenna, Joe McMahon and Alice Kozdemba

In celebration of creativity and talent, the Arc of the Arts Studio and Gallery  hosted its 15th annual Building Bridges art gala and auction at the Hyatt Regency on Barton Springs Rd. on Oct. 22. The gala is one of several annual events that the organization hosts to showcase the work of the studio’s 65 artists.  Arc of the Arts  is part of the Arc of the Capital Area, a nonprofit organization that provides support to intellectually or developmentally challenged teens and adults.

The night featured dozens of art displays, from jewelry and paintings, to drawings and sculptures. Dressed in cocktail attire, artists, donors and volunteers gathered around the displays to marvel at the vibrant colors and creations that were being proudly showcased by the artists of the Arc. Guests were served dinner, and had the chance to participate in art auctions and raffles. Building Bridges is a chance for Arc students to display their best pieces, and all proceeds made at the gala go back into the program.

Ann Wieding, Arc program manager, said students work on skills all year and instructors go through a critique process with each artist to determine which pieces will be displayed at Building Bridges.

“We take pictures and we talk about it, and the really nice pieces start to float to the top,” Wieding said. “Bridges is where everybody puts in 110 percent, and picks out their best piece.”

Tala S. a fifth year student with the program, was dressed to her best for the gala in a leopard printed dress , black jeweled necklace and a matching hat. She stood by her canvas painting of the Austin skyline and smiled for pictures and visitors. Tala has spent her time at the Arc mastering landscape and architecture painting styles.

“I find inspiration in Austin. I’m a big people person and I enjoy this place,” Tala said.

 

Students like Tala attend daily art classes at the Arc of the Arts Studio on Grover Ave. The classes are offered to students 14 and up, and most of the artists have common developmental disabilities, like autism, down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Classes take place Tuesday-Saturday and cost $25 a day per student.

Tala met her best friend Stephen at the Arc, who has been with the program since 2011. Stephen specializes in animal sculptures and jewelry. He has recently created several rooter sculptures that are intricately bedazzled with exuberant jewels. One of his roosters was showcased at the gala, and was sold almost immediately in the silent auction.

“My mind picks the colors. My mind tells me what to do,” he said.

 Arc classes provide students with basic art instruction from teachers who come from art education backgrounds. They work with students to develop individual skills and interests, as well as providing them with practical skills to help professionalize their artistic careers.

"Sparkly Cupcake" is one of three Arc of the Arts Studio paintings currently being displayed at Hey Cupcake. Ali H., the artists of the paintings helped set up the display, and makes a 20 percent commission on any of the pieces sold. (Photo by Alice Kozdemba)

“Sparkly Cupcake” is one of three Arc of the Arts Studio paintings currently being displayed at Hey Cupcake. Ali H., the artist of the paintings, helped set up the display, and makes a 20 percent commission on any of the pieces sold. (Photo by Alice Kozdemba)

 “Every week they learn a new skill, and when they start focusing on what they want to do as artists, we start taking them through the steps to become a professional artist,” Wieding said.

 In addition to classes and showcases hosted by the Arc, the student artwork has been displayed at local businesses in Austin, such as Hey Cupcake, Quacks Bakery and Kerbey Lane. Ali. H, a current art student , did the series of paintings that are currently displayed at the Hey Cupcake on Burnet Road. Wieding said part of the organization’s mission is to teach the students how to market themselves as working artists.

 “Ali went there and helped hang the show, and she was interviewed by  Community Impact,”Wieding said. “They pretty much follow the procedures that any artist would follow. They have to make the contacts, and do the PR, even if they’re not going to be the world’s most recognized artists.”

 The Arc of the Capital Area was founded in 1949, and was originally called The Association of Retarded Children. Organizers changed the name to Arc, and the arts program was added in 2010. Susan Eason, executive director of the Arc initially came to the organization as a client with her daughter , who was born with a developmental disability. Eason enjoyed the program so much that she began volunteering, and eventually became the director.

A teacher at the Arc of the Arts studio discusses a painting with artist and student Jared S. Teachers collaborate with the artists to develop create and professional skill sets. (Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna)

A teacher at the Arc of the Arts studio discusses a painting with artist and student Jared S. Teachers collaborate with the artists to develop create and professional skill sets. (Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna)

 “It’s really hard when you have a child with disabilities to find child care,” said Eason. “I wanted to meet other families and I was so impressed with the help they gave me that I became a volunteer.”

 Eason has been the Arc director for 23 years, and she said the program is currently waitlisted. Their youngest students are 14-years-old and the oldest is 60-years-old.

 “We serve people from the minute they’re diagnosed until the end of their life. Most students learn how to socialize here. Before this they had no peers or friends. “

In addition to classes, the Arc helps families deal with caring for developmentally challenged loved ones, especially as they approach adulthood. Amiee Chonoski, Arc marketing and volunteer coordinator,  said that the most rewarding part of the job is knowing that they are helping students and their families connect and learn from each other.

“I love working with the Arc because we have an amazing staff, and they love what they do and that’s a beautiful thing to be around every day,” Chonoski said.  “The artists are incredible, they are heroes.”