The Austin Samba School has created a new twist on the classic western “horse opera.” Fusing Brazilian Carnaval rhythms and dancing with Texas’ musical history, the performers of Austin Samba School are truly a community who come from all walks of life and in all sizes, shapes, colors, races and nationalities. This diversity allows them to take on creative challenges with full force and to create a performance unlike any other – cattle and cowboys, blues and rock, spangles and feathers, glitter and gold, samba and country.
Arts In Context Shorts: Studio Life tells the story of how Beto Martinez balances his career as a working musician and his family life.
“There’s always been a struggle to find that balance,” Martinez said. He went on to say it’s easier to handle now because he has a studio at home.
Martinez still works with Grupo Fantasma, a Grammy Award-winning funk orchestra from Austin, but he is also venturing into letting fellow local musicians use his studio to record their music.
The flexibility of being able to record from home and play local shows has allowed Martinez to lead a more balanced life.
“It could have been three hours before that I was out there, and I felt like a rockstar,” Martinez said. “But then I gotta come home and wake up and see what the kids want for breakfast.”
With “Cosmic Vida,” an exhibition at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, curator Raul Valdez gave visitors a glimpse into the cosmos.
“Cosmic Vida” is the first show Valdez curated in more than a decade. An artist himself, he curated the collection after he realized he could not produce enough work to fill up the space himself. The exhibition, which is no longer on display, juxtaposed dynamic and subdued pieces. With artworks of various mediums, colors, sizes and imagery, he explored the literal and symbolic meaning of the exhibit’s title.
Valdez hoped the audience was inspired to make their own interpretations on the universal experiences of La Raza, the human race.
“You can see the chicano in it, but you can also see the universal part,” Valdez said
This week’s episode of Arts In Context Shorts features “Strange Pilgrims” at The Contemporary Austin. This experiential art exhibition, takes its name from Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s 1993 book of short stories, wherein Márquez characteristically loops together strange, magical, hallucinatory stories. With its newest exhibition, the Contemporary takes spectators on another kind of magical pilgrimage through time, place, imagination and perception.
Curated by senior curator Heather Pesanti, “Strange Pilgrims” is the Contemporary’s first large-scale, thematic exhibition, spanning three locations – the Jones Center, the Laguna Gloria and the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas – and an extensive, 14-artist lineup. The exhibition is broken up into three thematic sections: Environment and Place, Performance and Process and Technology and Information.
The exhibition features a combination of newly commissioned works, site-specific refabrications, and existing works from an international lineup of artists, including Ayşe Erkmen, Sofía Táboas, Yoko Ono, the Lakes Were Rivers collective and Charles Atlas.
From giant vats that pump out large quantities of foam to indigo stained sculptures, Strange Pilgrims covers a wide variety of mediums and ideas. Sometimes challenging, often interactive, and always fascinating, The Contemporary Austin has elevated experiential art to a new level.
Strange Pilgrims is on view until January 24, 2016.
Austin-based singer-songwriter Darden Smith had never had a real conversation with a U.S. military service member until he met Lt. Col. Fred Cale. He quickly realized that they had much in common – both were music lovers. Through this meeting, Smith, the founder of SongwritingWith:Soldiers, realized that the divide between soldier and civilian was not what he thought it was. He saw the potential for music and songwriting to help soldiers transition back into civilian life.
“SongwritingWith:Soldiers to me is an incredibly beautiful kind of evolution, you might say, of what I’ve always wanted to do, which is tell stories and write songs,” Smith said.
The free program pairs professional songwriters with veterans to craft original songs based on their experiences. For many of the 120 military members who have participated, songwriting begins the healing process.
“I guarantee you they’ve saved lives with this program,” said Major Chuck Hawthorne, a retired Marine.
Equal parts cathartic release and creative endeavor, SongwritingWith:Soldiers offers a chance at healing to the people who need it most.
Creating “ECHO,” an improvisational, site-specific dance, the dancers of this Body Shift Performance Workshop have honed the skill of open awareness. Each individual explores improvisational dance by tuning into his or her own body and choosing a movement that will benefit the design of the whole dance. This allows the dancers freedom to do the dance that only they “know how to do” with the accidental moments of improvisation shining through like hidden gems.
Body Shift is a collaboration of Forklift Danceworks and VSA Texas and offers classes and workshops which empower people of all abilities to embrace dancing in their own unique way.
Take a walk – er, ride on the wild side.
Giant rattlesnakes, bats, and butterflies parade down the streets thanks to the Austin Bike Zoo. This mechanical menagerie is the brainchild of Jeremy Rosen, a UT grad with a degree in mechanical engineering. Rosen began the project with a simple goal of creating whimsical ways to play with bikes and ended up with a collection of intricately engineered animals. Part puppetry, part engineering, and all fun, the Austin Bike Zoo inspires wonder and delight everywhere they go.
“We have our own style and our own way of doing things,” Rosen said. “It really is original.”
Evan Voyles builds signs to last generations. Voyles is the sovereign sign-maker of South Congress – he hand-created and repurposed vintage signs for Magnolia Cafe, Homeslice, Soul, Stag, Creatures, Turquoise Door, Lucy’s Fried Chicken, Perla’s, Wahoo’s Fish Taco, Yard Dog and Uncommon Objects, the last two going on 20 years of age. Voyles started on his craft as a vintage neon sign collector and began to build signs when clients asked for specialized styles. Most recently, Voyles faced one of his biggest challenges yet: a 50-foot-tall replica of a 1952 Fender Telecaster for Austin Vintage Guitars. His personal artistry is on full display as he creates a new iconic masterpiece.
“I get to change the way my hometown looks,” Voyles said. “Who really gets to say that?”
By empowering teens through creative writing, higher education, and creative arts, the Barrio Writers are reinstating the term “Barrio” to its original meaning – community – and embracing it. This writing community began with small workshops at El Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana, California and have now evolved into week-long, intensive programs on university campuses across America. At the end of the week, the Barrio Writers transform their stereotypes into a place of positivity and become empowered in their own words. Having also published several summers of writing into anthologies, they collaborate to promote diversity, cultivate creative writing, and offer a new voice in literature. Get information about events in Central Texas at barriowriters.org
Watch full performances from students who participated in the Austin program this summer.
This week, Arts In Context Shorts shows you one way to get in touch with your colorful side.
As a painfully shy child, Allyson Garo embraced theater and costuming to free her inner extrovert. Today, as the owner of local boutique Coco Coquette, Garo brings maximalist glamour to the masses. Showcasing a treasure trove of wigs and accessories, this splendid little shop helps Austinites find their inner diva.
Wig parties bring friends together to explore the art of incognito and inspire even the introverted to be flamboyant fashionistas. Garo shows how easy it can be to transform one’s self into a work of art at Coco Coquette Austin’s masquerade market.