Austin’s got talent: ArtWorks drew more than 6,500

By Trey Mewes and Jason Schoonover

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Austin Saturday to celebrate Austin’s artistic spirit.

There were more than 100 artists displaying their wares, from vases to photos, paintings worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars and live music everywhere. Children made bowls, and painted landscapes and a Volkswagen Beetle. Adults got henna tattoos and discussed art. In short, the second Austin ArtWorks Festival was a tremendous success, according to organizers.

“It’s so breathtaking to see all of the community out here,” Jennie Knoebel, festival executive director, said.

More than 6,500 people attended the festival this year, up from 5,000 in 2012. The headline concert featuring Cloud Cult and Martin Zellar and the Hardways also drew 1,100 people Saturday.

“It’s the perfect day to be doing this,” said Kirsten Schipler. Schipler, who enjoyed the festival with her daughter, Morgan, was one of hundreds of residents who attended on Saturday.

During Saturday night’s concert, Knoebel said she was pleased with the second year of ArtWorks.

“It is definitely growing,” she said.

Credit card sales alone topped $16,000 in the main gallery Saturday.

“We ran out of sold signs,” Knoebel said. “It’s a good problem to have.”

This was the first year to add an evening concert to the many festivities at the utilities plant, something Knoebel said organizers would like bring back in 2014. However, she acknowledged a large donor and partnership with Pacelli Catholic School’s 100th anniversary helped make Saturday’s concert possible.

The concert brought three Austin natives home to perform.

“The beauty of this concert was the Austin ties,” she said.

That might not be possible next year, but Knoebel said organizers are discussing featuring bands with Minnesota ties.

While the first two years of ArtWorks relied on artists, musicians and writers with Austin ties, the festival could expand to include people from surrounding communities in future years.

“I think if we do expand, they’d probably keep it regional,” Knoebel said.

While Knoebel wants ArtWorks to continue growing, she admitted there is some uncertainty. Vision 2020’s utilities plant committee is discussing future plans for the building that could lead to a change of venues, though Knoebel said Austin Utilities would allow festival organizers to use the plant next year. Advocates are still pushing for apartments on the upper floors of the Austin Municipal Plant building with art studio space and museums on lower floors.

One ArtWorks goal was to showcase the plant and give it new life, so Knoebel said organizers have discussed using the same concept at a different Austin building.

The concert and many of the changes to this year’s festival were fueled by feedback from the community after last year, so Knoebel urged people to offer suggestions for next year.

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