The Austin Studio Tour Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary
By Lauren Feldott
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas – Hundreds of artists invited Austinites into their workshops and galleries to see their work during the annual Austin Studio Tour.
Big Medium coordinates the tour and creates a virtual map of the city that shows participating artists. Organizers encourage residents to visit different galleries and workshops over three weekends in November. This year’s tour was the 30th edition.
Women and Their Work is one of the galleries that participates each year. Three female artists who wanted the chance to show their work founded the gallery in 1978 after being rejected by other galleries. Executive director Chris Cowden said the tour helps spread the gallery’s mission, and the uptick in viewers during the tour was substantial due to the tour’s promotion of the gallery.
“The studio tour is such a celebration of art for all of Austin,” Cowden said. “It’s exciting when people are here, and other people come in and say, ‘Well this is happening here, I’m glad I’m here!’”
She appreciates the exposure to new visitors that the tour brings, as it helps raise awareness of the gallery’s yearlong programs.
“We reach about 1,000 kids a year with education programs,” Cowden said.
There are nearly 600 participants, but most are not large galleries. Some independent artists use the tour to gather together and show their art in one space.
Jennifer Conroy is one of the longest participants of the tour, and she hosts a large gathering of artists in her backyard. She inherited Two Goats Pottery from her mother, who was also a ceramic artist.
“I love people coming to my space. I love it when people tell me the space is magical, because it really is,” Conroy said.
Her studio tour exhibition features a collection of work from different artists, from photography to textiles to her own ceramics. There is also live music, food and a chance to play with two pet goats.
For Conroy, the studio tour is all about maintaining a sense of community.
“I like old Austin,” she said. “I think that we have a lot of stuff that doesn’t have that vibe that’s coming, and Austin’s changing in a way that doesn’t always preserve the creative, family owned business.”
As the tour looks back on 30 years, Conroy appreciates that Big Medium organizes the event so artists can share their work in their own spaces.
“We invite live musicians to come, and we get amazing music, and it’s just an incredibly, beautifully chill vibe,” Conroy said. “Everybody gets that. It’s old Austin, you know?”
Katrina Gorman is one of the artists who showed their work in Conroy’s space this year. She said her favorite part of the studio tour is sharing her landscapes made from vibrant twisted fabrics.
“I really enjoy that part, when people see my art for the first time,” Gorman said. “They’re like: ‘Wow!’ you know?”
Gorman travels the country throughout the year to show her art in festivals and trade shows, but she said the Austin Studio Tour is special in how it brings together different kinds of artists throughout the city and encourages people to go into artists’ spaces.
“I think every city should have a studio tour because art is so important to our society,” Gorman said.
She believes the tour has lasted for three decades because of the importance of art in people’s daily lives.
“Art brings on new thought. It expands your mind to go beyond what you’re living from day-to-day, and that’s a part of good living right there,” Gorman said.
“If you’re just thinking about paying bills, and what the kids are doing, it’s just so limited, and you don’t really have a chance to just breathe. Art helps you do that, too. It helps you breathe and see beauty in the world.”
As this year’s tour came to a close, Conroy said she hoped it will continue to expand to include more dates and participants next year.
“It’s really about connecting and sharing the space, so that’s what I love,” Conroy said.
The studio tour may be over, but the art lasts year-round. For a list of local artists and galleries that participated in this year’s tour, visit the Austin Studio Tour website.