The Austin Chronicle Press

Taming the East Austin Studio Tour

With EAST’s huge growth, artists work to keep the focus on their art and creative process

Longtime participants in the East Austin Studio Tour have rosy memories of a time when visitors would languidly bike or walk from backyard to backyard. “The first five or eight years of EAST, people would get on their bike, and they would go on this quest – really a pilgrimage. It was awesome!” Jennifer Chenoweth recalls, sitting at the kitchen table in her house, which accommodates, in addition to a friendly bevy of children and dogs, EAST destination Fisterra Studio. With quick growth, though, came an overwhelming change of pace for visitors and artists. “Around 2010, we had way too many people here. It was shoulder-to-shoulder strangers shuffling sideways and not talking.” Chenoweth grimaces. “Right after that, Canopy got built. It kept growing by numbers, so the audience spread out a little, and it was like, whew, back to good conversations. But a lot of artists who didn’t have a bunch of guest artists just didn’t get much traffic.”

These growing pains have been felt by other artists, some of whom, as Chenoweth says, counterintuitively saw their foot traffic decline even as the event exploded. Amanda McInerney, a founder and member of Artists Screen Printing Co-op (ASPCO), showed me around their workspace, where she lamented that more people don’t veer slightly off the well-worn paths of EAST to take in their work and process. She attributes a lot of the dwindling of traffic to luck with location, saying, “It’s like we just missed the curve.”

Abstract painter Andrew Long remembers EAST’s beginnings as a natural extension of a community of artists who saw one another frequently around the neighborhood, at coffee shops in the morning and in between working in their studios. Chenoweth was also part of this community of artists who embarked on the project with the idea of showcasing artists where they worked. She remembers before EAST: “It’s not that there weren’t good artists who lived here; they just didn’t show here. People were like, let’s make an art scene. We know the artists, we know their work is amazing, so let’s make this happen.”

READ MORE