Written by: Maggie Tate
It is common for the Art from the Streets (AFTS) studio to be filled with the lively atmosphere of creation, but never as much as on turn-in day. This past Thursday, September 8, artists and volunteers alike left the brushes in the closet and put on their curator hats. The task of the day was for each artist to select up to 40 pieces from their 2016 production to be mounted for display in the 24th Annual Show & Sale. Another submission day will take place on October 20th for works that will be unmounted but still available for sale. The upcoming show, which takes place at the Austin Convention Center on November 19th & 20th, will feature the newest work of AFTS’s regular artists.
With art covering almost every surface of the space, the experience of turn-in day put into focus not only how prolific and talented the artists are, but also how organized the operation of AFTS has to be. On Thursday, 32 artists were present to turn in their artwork, reaching a total of 889 pieces. With the space limitations that AFTS faces, it takes the work of small miracles and the continuous dedication of crafty volunteer leads to choreograph the movement of blank paper, partly finished work, and completed pieces between on-site storage, the studio space, and an off-site storage facility. Watching this process culminate in each artist’s carefully stacked blue plastic storage bags from which they selected their 2016 collection was a thing of wonder.
As a line of accomplished-feeling artists slowly left the studio, a team of volunteers used their final wisps of energy to load the artwork into the back of Kelley Worden’s vehicle. Worden, Executive Director for AFTS, has arranged for Adam Galleries in Lakeway to mount the work for this year’s exhibition. This is one of several new collaborative relationships that have positive energy flowing into AFTS operations. Another such relationship was developed between AFTS and Vintage Villas Hotel & Events, overlooking Lake Travis. On August 4, Vintage Villas hosted an AFTS exhibition entitled Give Art a Home. The exhibition yielded both a new audience for the artists of AFTS, with attendance reaching roughly 250 people, as well as a new opportunity for artists to make much needed money from their artworks, with sales from the show adding up to $5,870.
Aside from these numerical statistics of success, the Give Art a Home exhibition at Vintage Villas was a meaningful experience for the artists by unquantifiable measures as well. Pat Bailey, a regular artist of AFTS, expressed this effect quite eloquently in a message to Kelley following the show’s opening night. “Thank you so much for the show at Vintage Villas,” she wrote. “It was SPECTACULAR! It was GORGEOUS!! … The view of the lake at evening with the sunset and the moon like a fingernail brought tears. I’d forgotten what it is like to be surrounded by a beautiful place and stunning sky and by such wonderful people…” When asked to reflect on her experience at Vintage Villas during Thursday’s turn-in day, Pat said it took her two days to come down from the bliss of that evening.
Sentiments such as Pat’s were echoed by volunteers at the quarterly volunteer meeting held on August 25th. Exhibitions such as Give Art a Home and the Annual Show & Sale are important reminders to all who are involved with AFTS that art and the events that surround it are vital parts of the human experience. Not only are artists who are homeless, formerly homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless given a venue for turning their artistic skill into monetary means, butalso artists, volunteers, and spectators alike are given the opportunity to make community and share a sunset with people they might otherwise never make meaningful contact.
Building community in these circumstances can be eye-opening for some and life-affirming for others. If the energy of the first turn-in day is any indication, hopes are high that this year’s Annual Show & Sale will be a success in both art sales and community building.