Reporting Texas
News and features from UT-Austin's School of Journalism

Arts & Culture

For Identical Twin R&B Duo, Big Dreams Come with Big Plans for Giving Back

The Austin-based identical twin R&B duo THEBROSFRESH may be on the verge of stardom.
Torrence and Thurman Thomas, 34, have yet to sign a deal with a record label, but they regularly fill popular Austin music venues such as C-Boy’s and Continental Club, and they have inked contracts as brand ambassadors with Nike and Volkswagen.
Torrence, who plays bass and sings, envisions achieving success as a staircase. At the very top of it sits their goal of selling out stadiums and mentoring others to do the same.
“We’re stepping towards it,” Torrence said.

Giant Troll Highlights Recycled Art in Austin

The piles of Douglas Fir and cedar sat in Pease Park, waiting to be repurposed into Austin’s newest public artwork. The Douglas Fir had once been a research test tank at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas. Now it was destined to be an 18-foot troll — and a testament to recycling.
While the trend of making art from recycled materials is not new, Dambo’s troll artwork proved to be a good match for environmentally conscious Austin benefactors. 

As Younger Drinkers Forgo Alcohol, Bartenders Are Mixing Up More Booze-free Cocktails

“A cocktail is interesting whether it has alcohol or not,” said Armando Garza, a bartender at the Roosevelt Room.
The Roosevelt Room and other Austin bars are tapping into the trend of consumers forgoing alcohol when they go out for happy hours, gatherings and celebrations. A 2023 Gallup report found that only 62% of 18- to 34-year-olds said they had occasion to drink in 2021-23, down from 72% two decades ago.

‘Black Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick’ Exhibit Challenges Beauty Standards

The “Back Girls Don’t Wear Red Lipstick” photography exhibit at the Austin Central Library showcases 42 photos of Black women in varying poses, many wearing red lipstick, which historically has been taboo for African-American women.

Apr 23, 2024

Arts Education Groups Are Struggling. Austin Is Looking for Ways to Help.

In late 2023, 19 Austin arts education organizations received a total of $475,000 thanks to the Arts Education Relief Grant, Austin’s first arts education grant program. But gaps in funding for the arts remain, and groups focused on education are looking for new sources for money.

Dec 11, 2023

The Enduring Spirit of Austin’s Underground Music Scene

Dim lighting illuminated the grunginess of The Parlor in Hyde Park on a recent Saturday, shedding slivers of light on a book release party for “A Curious Mix of People.” The scene was more akin to a high school reunion that united old friends and bandmates – which is exactly what authors Greg Beets and […]

Nov 26, 2023

Art From the Streets Takes a Creative Approach in Addressing Mental Distress 

This year’s show of works by homeless artists came as Art From the Streets achieved two milestones that signify new beginnings for the 32-year-old organization — settling into a permanent home that it moved into in 2021 and an expansion of its mental health programs. 

Oct 26, 2023

All Black Made Pop-Up Provides Alternative Selling Opportunity for Vendors

About 20 canopy tents lined a parking lot adjacent to Black Pearl Books on Saturday afternoon. Underneath each was a business owner displaying their wares: body oil, customized cups, paintings, lemonade, hair bonnets, apparel, candles, jewelry and more. While the sun beat down, 94 degrees and counting, the entrepreneurs offered smiles to shoppers at All […]

Oct 19, 2023

Lifesaving Mix at ACL: Thousands of Overdose Reversal Drug Doses, Education and Music Come Together for First Time

From a booth on the east side of Zilker Park, a husband and wife from Ohio exceeded their dreams of helping to save lives by distributing 6,000 doses of overdose-reversing drugs.
“We thought we were gonna do a couple of festivals in the Midwest; that’s all we hoped for,” William Perry said of his lifesaving operation called This Must Be the Place. “This year, we went coast to coast and now we’re here in Austin.”
Their booth at Austin City Limits Music Festival the past two weekends served as a beacon of information on preventing fatal overdoses of fentanyl and other opioids with the nasal spray naloxone.
Perry said they found a receptive crowd in Austin. 
“We were prepared to talk people into taking it and talk people into why they should have it, and obviously that was not the case,” Perry said. “All you have to do is sit and listen to us explain the signs and symptoms and how to administer the medication. It takes people two and a half minutes or so and now they’re equipped to go save a life.”

Oct 03, 2023

Slideshow: Mermaids Float Through Downtown San Marcos

Mermaids and other seafaring people and creatures descended upon San Marcos to celebrate the annual Mermaid Capital of Texas Festival on Sept. 23.
The festival celebrates the history of the Aquarena Springs Aquamaids, women who dressed as mermaids and performed underwater acts when the Aquarena Springs amusement park operated in San Marcos more than two decades ago.
The festival also celebrates the San Marcos River, which runs through the city, and promotes the conservation of the river.

May 04, 2023

Nahuatl, Indigenous Language of Mexico, Leaves UT Students with Another World View

Soft strums from a wooden guitar and the smell of warm tamales and green salsa that flowed together like a warm hug filled the air of Benedict Hall. About 35 students and faculty gathered at the teachers’ lounge at the University of Texas to listen to Crispin Martinez Rosas, who goes by the artistic name […]

Apr 24, 2023

Coloring Austin’s Walls With Latino History

Austin’s Gus Garcia mural one of dozens of art works that dot the city on the walls of buildings, parking decks, underpasses and fences — some created by non-commissioned street artists and others by professional artists funded by the city’s Art in Public Places program and by organizations such as the Austin Downtown Alliance Foundation and the Austin Parks Foundation.

Austin’s cultural diversity is represented in these vibrant artistic expressions, and the murals such as the painting of Garcia showcase the city’s Hispanic community and are an integral aspect of the city’s identity. 

Apr 06, 2023

Family-Run Horror Movie Convention Terrorizes Bastrop

Attendees came from at least three states and as far away as Las Vegas make the trek to Bastrop for the seventh annual Cult Classic horror movie convention. They came to see their favorite, if not quite famous, horror movie actors and directors, and to meet new and old friends and like-minded horror aficionados. A number of the attendees came in costume. Elizabeth from the movie “Frankenhooker” was perhaps the most widely represented character; Patty Mullen, the film’s lead actor was at the convention. There were also several Leatherfaces from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and various versions of Jason Vorhees from “Friday the 13th.”

Mar 04, 2023

James Beard Award Semifinalists Dish on Prominence of Mexican Food in Austin’s Culinary Scene

Of the six James Beard award semifinalists in Austin, three are Mexican food establishments. Comadre Panadería is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker, Suerte for Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program, and La Condesa for Outstanding Restaurant. 

The James Beard Foundation, founded in 1986, is a non-profit that celebrates and promotes America’s diverse culinary heritage through events and awards. 

Their annual awards, first given 1990, are often referred to as the “Oscars of the food world.”

Dec 23, 2022

Broken Spoke Is Counting on a City Hall Two-Step to Protect Its Future

The Broken Spoke faces a critical turning point this spring, as the Austin City Council considers designating the lot surrounding the Texas dance hall as a historic zone, a declaration that would protect the 58-year-old venue from real estate development along South Lamar Boulevard.
In November, the council initiated a proclamation naming the Broken Spoke a historical landmark. But that largely ceremonial proclamation, brought by Council Member Ann Kitchen, in itself does not ensure long-term preservation of the dance hall and restaurant. So, Kitchen initiated the city’s historic zoning process that would make it more difficult for the landowner to develop the Broken Spoke site.
“She didn’t want it to go the way of so many other historic landmarks unofficially named in town,” said the author of a 2017 book on the dance hall. “She wanted it to be here for future generations. So she started the process.”

Dec 06, 2022

From the Military to the Kitchen, These Veterans Are Choosing a Career That Brings Out Their Passion for Food

The smell of spices and chicken had people lining up at an Austin food festival to get Shirley Newell’s Dominican food. The U.S. Army veteran was rapidly taking orders, flipping her marinated chicken and packing food to-go. “Food is my comfort, my passion and how I express myself,” Newell said. “When I was in the military is when I actually started cooking.”
Now, cooking is her livelihood. She started Phatty Boy food truck nine years after she left the Army as an automated logistics specialist. For some Texas veterans, opening food-service businesses feels like a natural step after their military career.

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