Austin’s work of art: Despite rain, heat, 5,200 turn out for festival’s third yearPublished 10:26am Monday, August 25, 2014
Despite the rainy start, the third annual Austin ArtWorks Festival drew large crowds to downtown Austin over the weekend.
Many local and non-local artists came together Saturday and Sunday to showcase their talents at the Austin Utilities Plant, the new ArtWorks Center and even on Main Street. Eleven authors, a glass blower, a potter, a hoola-hoop artist, a mosaic artist, and an artist who set up a canvas and allowed anyone who wanted to participate in the painting, along with many other artists, were at the festival.
“It’s been a good weekend for the arts in Austin,” said Jennie Knoebel, executive director for the Austin Area Commission for the Arts.
This year’s festival drew an estimated 5,200 people, which was up from 5,000 in its first year but down from last year’s 6,500.
“It went well. … The weather was pretty hot [Sunday], so I don’t know if that deterred people,” Knoebel said on Monday morning.
Bringing back talent
The festival brimmed with people stopping at booths and looking at paintings. As the music began Saturday, many people took their seats at the bandstand.
Lynda Howden planned her time at the festival to listen to the music and was happy to see all the talent Austin produced for the event.
“Family connections, Austin connections all around,” Howden said. “That’s one of the keys, isn’t it. Bringing back local talents and people.”
Howden returned to the festival on Sunday to work a few hours at one of the entrances as a greeter. But despite working at the festival, she planned to continue enjoying the different artists.
“Coming both days, you almost kind of have to to see it and enjoy it all,” Howden said. “All the people have done all this work; I just think it’s amazing what they put together in this little, funky building.”
She hoped to come back to the festival next year and was happy to see Austin make another step toward showcasing the arts.
“I think it’s wonderful that Austin has finally got a creative thumb moving in this town,” Howden said. “I think the connection with the new art [center] opening is just great.”
Some of the talent returned from previous events. Andy Hull returned after a small-scale bike show fundraiser in March with the Spare Arts Bike Show during the festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“It got rained out a little earlier, so it kind of scared off a few guys because motorcycles don’t usually like the wet, of course, and we were a little slow to get set up because of that but it came together,” Hull said. “We condensed it down from two blocks to one just to fill it up, but otherwise the weather cleared up and it’s been a blast so far.”
Volunteers blocked off Main Street from Second Avenue to Fourth Avenue for the show, which was open to all motorcycles, custom, stock and vintage. Hull also invited people to bring motorized scooters. New this year were the vintage van-campers, campers and Volkswagens.
“It’s something new so we just kind of brought them out and people kind of like that nostalgic old style of camping,” Hull said. “Lots of different bikes and lots of different people, so it’s been great.”
Hull brought two of his many motorcycles to the show, along with a camper. There were many owners who brought their bikes to the show, and there was also a dunk tank.
“It’s been good, it’s been a good day so far,” Hull said.
Although many of the visitors came to look at the art, for some, the festival was more about getting creative. The Volkswagon Bug also returned for children to paint. For 6-year-old David Obst, the festival fun began in the middle of the excitement.
“Painting the car,” David said.
David, along with many children, painted the Volkswagen Bug that was parked in the middle of the ongoing art displays. The car has gotten painted by children every year.
His grandmother, Sheila Donahue, brought him and his sister, Mia, 3, to the festival Saturday.
“He watched the glass blower too, but this is kind of what attracted him,” Donahue said about the VW bug. “I said ‘you get to paint a car’ so he was excited.”
Seven-year-old Abby Wallraff also got to paint the VW Bug, where she used pink and blue paint. But her favorite part of the festival was the living art.
“Seeing the animals,” Abby said about her favorite displays. “The zebras.”
Abby’s mother Megan Wallraff clarified that she enjoyed the display with the zebra print. They, along with Abby’s dad, Troy Wallraff, visited Austin from Blaine, Minnesota, to see the ArtWorks Festival and to visit Megan’s dad, Bruce Loeschen, who was working at the festival. They were excited to see all the artists and local talent Austin has to offer.
“Seeing all the different things that Austin can come up with,” Megan said.
Troy added, “Showcasing Austin’s town.”
Artists share their talents
Flor Vargas, a piñata maker, found out about the ArtWorks Festival through Austin Public Library Director Ann Hokanson.
“This is her first time and she’s very excited to be a part of it,” said Blanca Rodriguez, who translated for Vargas.
Vargas, from Mazatlan Sinaloa, Mexico, only speaks Spanish and brought Rodriguez along to the festival to help translate. Vargas was excited to come to the festival, bringing many piñatas with her.
Vargas started making piñatas after looking for a hobby.
“During the wintertime when she had nothing to do she decided to make one and she kind of went from there,” Rodriguez translated. “[She] started making them bigger and bigger and more elaborate.”
According to Vargas, regular piñatas are smaller and take less time to create, but the ones she made were more elaborate. One piñata was a can of Spam, which took her 58 hours to make. Another was of SpongeBob SquarePants, which took her 60 hours. However, she wasn’t able to bring her biggest piñata: Austin Bruins mascot Bruiser.
“She wasn’t able to bring it because the weather didn’t cooperate for drying time,” Rodriguez translated.
Each piece of the piñatas are cut and glued by Vargas, and all the materials she used were recyclables. Vargas hopes to come back to the festival next year.
“She’s going to prepare herself with a year ahead now that she knows [what to expect], so she can plan something special,” Rodriguez translated.
Josh Seevers demonstrated his blacksmithing talent at the festival, as he crafted jewelry.
“I met up with Jennie and she told me about the festival and asked if I wanted to do it and I said I’d be happy to,” Seevers said. “They were just really excited that I did blacksmithing so they wanted me to come demo that.”
He wanted to learn how to craft things from an early age.
“Blacksmithing was a love of metalworks, iron, swords. When I was a kid I wanted to make swords,” Seevers said. “So I started learning how to blacksmith and I ended up making jewelry, but it’s a lot of fun.”
He has made knives, jewelry and hooks, which were all on display at the festival, along with some of his photography and wood carvings.
This was Seever’s first year at the festival, and although it was a bit hectic setting up, he hopes to come back next year.
“I wasn’t quite expecting this large of a crowd, but I didn’t really know what to expect,” Seevers said.
Seevers lives in Minneapolis and works as an information technology professional. Although he fixes computers for a living, he hasn’t stopped his love for crafting.
“I always have fun when I’m crafting,” he said.
Planning for 2015
Though overall totals weren’t available Monday, Knoebel said about $12,000 worth of art sold on Saturday.
“The artists seemed happy with their sales overall,” Knoebel said.
With the third annual festival over, organizers are now looking ahead to changes for next year. Surveys were available for people to fill out at the festival, and organizers will look at those in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be at the Utilities Building again, but we’ve already started talking about ways that we can shake it up next year,” Knoebel said.