Austin, Texas has quite an interesting slogan: "Keep Austin Wierd". I was able to see quickly during a visit to the city how the general population would give it this nickname, but speaking for the creative people, I would have to say this city is a Mecca for all the dreamers and free spirited people you can possibly imagine.
One of my first stops in the city was a site that cultivates this principle. The Hope Outdoor Gallery, otherwise known to locals as Grafitti or Castle Hill, sits on the corner of 2 very unpronounced Austin side streets. On the hill stands grafitti covered concrete footings and slabs of an unfinished building. What some might consider a site for sore eyes and as acts of rebellious acts or vandalism, others see as a gallery of powerful modern works of art. I must admit when I drove by I did have mixed feelings about the site, but it did not take me long to change my mind altogether when I began to get up close and study the walls' powerful messages and graphics.
This plot of land was slated for the development of a condo project. However as the project fell through with zoning issues, the land sat vacant except for the poured foundation. It did not take long for the city's street artists and graffitists to begin using it for their art playground. Instead of the owners of the property putting a hault to it, they allowed it to continue. It wasn't long before the area bcame a hot spot on Austin's "must visit" areas.
In 2011, the property owners, Castle Hill Partners made an important decision that allowed the HOPE campaign to take over running the operations of the park, which was a great move on their part.
The "HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Movement" was created in 2006 by Shepard Fairey, a world renowned American contemporary street artist, graphic designer, activist and illustrator. He used his creative talents and was able to gain national recognition for his projects which helped raise awareness and bring to the forefront the crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
The HOPE campaign team consists of a group of producers, artists, and designers who share a passion of bringing people together, donating their time and talents to support socially conscious worthy projects and organizations around the world.
Check them out here. http://hopecampaign.org/hope-campaigns/
The HOPE Outdoor Gallery has the bragging rights as the only paint park of its kind in the US and is one of the top 10 artistic destinations in Texas. The principle behind the park is one of using graffiti style art as an outlet for creative artistic expression which produces some very diverse, positive, inspirational and educational messages. It is where inspiration and creativity is encouraged and artists are able to push the envelope in a sense, to break stigmas and change perceptions that might come with these type of acts historically.
A sense of a greater community is apparent here. On any given day, the park is filled with all types of people from all walks of life. Although there is diversity, they have one amazing commonality. A passion for using their creative talents to produce art in a nontraditional way.
It only takes one commonality to bring together the masses to make a positive impact in all of our communities and our world. This on-going project strengthens and broadens the support networks between communities and the street artists and muralists. Education and giving back to Austin is very important to the HOPE campaign. Some of the ways they are able to support their mission includes: acting as a support network and creating jobs for local artists, providing art education to local school programs, clubs and civic organizations, allowing for filming of TV shows, videos and wedding photo shoots and using the site for Yoga classes.
Austin is lucky to have the HOPE campaign and the gallery present working for the overall goal of strengthening Austin's community through the promotion of art and education.
Just a few tips while visiting the gallery:
1101 Baylor Street (at the corner of 11th and Baylor)
You can read about other Austin sites in my articles Hamilton Pool Preserve: Austin's Geological Wonder, and Texas' Capital Hill: An Architectural Dream,
You can find my images from some of my travels available for purchase at:
iStock by Getty Images
Fotolia by Adobe: us.fotolia.com/p/206433466
They are also available for purchase as prints and on many great products at:
at Balboa Press