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Why the Culturally Perceptive are Heading to Austin
Boasting a lively music and art scene, Austin is quickly becoming a hot spot for musicians, artists, and the creatively-inclined thanks to a host of annual festivals and local support. Only blocks away from hubs such as the Austin Music Hall, Ballet Austin, and the culinary hotspots of 6th Street, the W Hotel Austin is perfectly situated for those looking to indulge in all of the cultural activities that the growing metropolis has to offer.
As a city, Austin is growing at a rapid pace. For a myriad of reasons, an influx of start-ups and transplants have been establishing their headquarters within city limits. In fact, between 2001 and 2013, the city saw a 41.1 percent jump in employment in the tech industry. While a surge of young creative minds will help to shift the cultural landscape in a positive way, the growth could also cause the cost of living to skyrocket, which is why Austin is actively pursuing ways to encourage and assist the artistic set who might otherwise be squeezed out by other better-funded businesses. thinkEast is one solution, now being developed as a 24-acre, multi-use space in East Austin to offer the city’s creatives flexible, unique studio spaces.
The thinkEast project is only one of the ideas that Austin has come up with to integrate the arts into city life, another on a totally different level is the Hope Outdoor Gallery. Launched by non-profit HOPE Events and world-renowned contemporary artist and OBEY clothing founder Shephard Fairey in 2011, the current space is known as a “paint park.” The first of its kind, the park serves as an open-air space for muralists and street artists, as well as a space for the community to educate and display large-scale art pieces. “I honestly think it’s a really cool thing,” one visitor told KXAN News, “I think more communities should have something like this. It’s a great way for people to express themselves.”
In addition to Austin working to foster a supportive environment for the artistic set, the city hosts multiple festivals and events throughout the year not only to show off local culture, but also welcome in guests from all over the world. None of course has impacted Austin as much as South by Southwest (SXSW). In fact, in 2015, the festival injected over $317 million into the Texas city. A multi-disciplinary display that intersects art, music, film, and technology, this event kicks off festival season every year by revealing what is new on the cultural horizon. The film portion of the event has previously hosted speakers such as Tilda Swinton, and Matthew McConaughey, while the music festival is the largest in the world, boasting over 2,000 musical acts per year. "Navigating the music lineup at SXSW feels like getting lost in the endless aisles of IKEA, imagining all of the different lifestyles you can arrange for yourself all in one place," wrote music columnist Jake Witz for the Daily Cardinal. "Name any single music genre, and chances are there will be dozens of shows catering to the sound, showcasing new and old artists alike."
And then on a more local level you have Art City Austin and Fusebox, which is self-described as an annual festival that “creates a more sustainable environment for artists by providing resources, equipment, space, advocacy, and funding.” Held annually for over a decade and spread across over two dozen venues in the Austin area, Fusebox festival seeks to bring together dozens of interdisciplinary projects and artists from around the globe. Ron Berry, Fusebox’s Artistic Director, has said that the festival is a means to "attract more out of town audiences and colleagues while creating an even more vibrant, temporary community around the festival.” The festival has had a lasting effect in the past few years by both initiating and expanding community dialogue about the thinkEast project.
Art City Austin on the other hand, has been put on by the Austin Creative Alliance for over 65 years, and has remained a landmark event representative of the city’s dedication to its local art scene. The three-day festival serves as the first and largest art marketplace in central Texas. This year marked its first year offering a contemporary art fair that features galleries from across the state as well. "It's actually Austin's first ever art fair, and we have galleries participating from across Texas," Director Asa Hursh told KUT. "I'm excited about it and I'm excited to bring it to Austin."
Austin saw a 40 percent growth in creative jobs from 2003 to 2013, the biggest jump in the nation. If that is any indicator of just how much artistic juice is flowing through the city, then we’re eager to see what the next 10 years will bring to the "Live Music Capital of the World."