Friday, February 26, 2016

Austin's Graffiti Park at HOPE Outdoor Gallery

My favorite piece

Street art started catching my interest when I was living in Penang, Malaysia. Taking a photo next to the Kids on Bike mural  and going on street art scavenger hunts has become one of the must-do activities for visitors there. As I've traveled around the world, this particular public art form has been a draw for me whether I'm in Paris, France or Rapid City, South Dakota. So, I was excited to discover that the street art scene has taken off in my hometown of Austin, Texas during the years that I was overseas.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery

Most of the popular street art around town seems to fall into the wholesome category suitable for using as a backdrop for the holiday card family photo. The HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a.k.a. Graffiti Park, has a edgier feel to it. It first came to my attention when a friend posted photos of her daughter's hip hop dance crew taken at HOPE. "What?!," I thought to myself. "Something this cool exists in Austin?" I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised what with the "Keep Austin Weird" motto of this Portland-of-the-South.

HOPE Outdoor Gallery launched five years ago as part of SXSW. Spread across three tiers of concrete walls that are supposedly what remains of an abandoned condo construction project from the 1980's, it's said to the be the largest outdoor mural project in the city. The original info I found for it asks artists to submit applications to be considered for displaying their creations here. In magazine and travel blogs, it shows up as a place that everyone, both Austin residents and tourists alike, must visit.

A few weeks ago, I was finally in that part of town and decided to pay HOPE a visit. On this quiet weekday afternoon, parking was already scarce. I imagine it must be rather difficult on a fine weekend. With the tiers rising up before me as I approached the outdoor gallery, it was a little hard to take in. There was so much going on visually. 

There's now a trailer near the street entrance that supposedly sells cans of spray paint if you want to get in on the action. It was closed when I visited, so I didn't get a chance to leave my mark. I was glad that I'd worn sturdy shoes as the hike uphill alongside the concrete walls was a little steep and uneven. No stairs were in sight anywhere. I wanted to get closer to the art on the upper tiers but didn't feel like I was quite agile enough to hop over walls and drop-offs.

Heading through a gate at the top of the hill, I was surprised to find myself in front of an office building disguised as a castle. This city landmark belongs to Castle Hill Partners, owners of the property where HOPE is located and sponsors of the original art installation launch. Hmmm... it also seems like the parking here (West 11th Street off Blanco Street) was a much better option as long as the gate to the gallery is open. I've always wanted to get close to Austin's famous Castle, so stumbling upon it during this outing was a bonus.

As I walked around HOPE, I didn't quite know what to think. I really had, pardon me, high hopes for this place. It is so hyped up as a essential part of the Austin experience. But compared to what I've seen elsewhere, I was disappointed. It may have started out great and semi-curated, but the current practice of letting any person let loose with a can of spray paint has diminished the quality in my apparently not-so-humble opinion.

My favorite piece, the woman's face in the first photo of this post, has probably survived unscathed because it is up high and out of reach to anyone without a ladder. Every other surface was covered with layers and layers of random scrawlings, like the kind you see at restaurants where you can grab a marker to write on the wall. Empty spray cans littered the ground. Broken beer bottles were scattered around, too. I must be a hypocrite because I found this urban art experience that I sought out a little too urban for me. How I long for Singapore sometimes. 

As an observer, I give this place 3 or even 2 out of 5 stars. I think the magic must be in getting to be a participant. To be the one wielding the spray paint and leaving your mark without fear of repercussion.

Do you consider this art?

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  1. contented travellerFebruary 26, 2016 at 5:48 AM

    You make some valid points that there may well need to be some organisation in this. You picked some lovely pieces to share however.

  2. The most street art I've seen is in Asheville, NC and I've never seen any street art organized like this.( My daughter is moving to Brooklyn though so I think I'm about to see much more) In my mind it's definitely art - just on a large canvas. I like your analogy about the signing of walls at restaurants - that's what it appears to have become. Would love to see it in person.

  3. I adore your favourite piece, but I wouldn't like just random jottings, especially if they are scrawled on top of another piece. I wouldn't like to see all the empty spray cans left around as litter either. I'd probably think it confusing up close and prefer to view it from a distance. There are some pieces here I'd definitely call art.

  4. I've seen some extremely talented people create amazing street art in my day, but I've also seen some that is, frankly, garbage. When people use it as a method to deface property or express uncalled-for profanity, I consider it a poor reflection on the neighborhood.

  5. To me, there is a fine line of what can be considered art and what not. I think it has to do a lot with personal taste too. I may consider something art and you may consider something else art. And, this has happened to me even in museums (sometimes I do not understand why a piece is on exhibition). So, I will gladly visit places like this in Austin and then have my opinion on whether I liked them or not.

  6. I don't get taggers write over the actually talented art. We have some amazing art near us and some lame taggers have ruined it. Tagging may have been the thing in the '80's but it's like a kids crayon drawing now - the standard is so much higher....I've fallen in love with the work of Adnate. To be able to make those eyes with a spray can is beyond me....

  7. Love the images you shared, and yes I believe it is definitely a valid art form. We have a lot of new murals in Perth and Bunbury and it's such a treat going on treasure hunts to find them.

  8. Wow, you captured some great shots of the street art in Austin. I really liked the shot of the "artists" in action. I think it's good that there is space where they can do this, but I also hate the ones that just tag over someones work.

  9. Yes, I totally consider it art. I love street art, and go around looking for it when in certain cities. Beautiful photos.

  10. I love street art! It captures so much of what a city is about from the point of view of a regular person. I've got a street art pinterest board that I've added this article to.

  11. Totally agree this is art!!! How did I miss this last year in Austin?????

  12. Graffiti has surely come a long way: from vandalism to art. This is quite beautiful.

  13. Such a great tour. I too have seen much street art and appreciate the passion involved. It wasn't until I saw the skill level in Rio where they embrace it, that it became art for me. As with all creative expression what makes it good is in the eye of the beholder. I'm finding that I most appreciate the work that reveals great craftsmanship married to message.

  14. Lyn - A Hole in my ShoeFebruary 27, 2016 at 11:56 PM

    Thank you for sharing this with #TheWeeklyPostcard, I love street art so much. I agree with your cover photo being the favourite, mine too.

  15. Absolutely this is art. Austin seems to be a lot like my home town of Melbourne, Australia where we have a wonderful street art culture. Unfortunately tagging can ruin people's perceptions of street artists and rightly so as some of it can be pretty ugly. It has been explained to me though that tagging is seen as a way of developing a style particularly around typography. We are not heading to the US for a while but when we do we will definitely head to Austin. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  16. I have to agree with you about the designated street art area of Hope, it really didn't look that special compared to some of the street art. But the fact that you can have a go yourself is the obvious tourist attraction.

  17. you definitely have an appreciation for street art, which I admire. Some of it can be interesting and impressive, but it is still vandalism, so I have mixed feelings about it.

  18. So incredibly beautiful! Those graffiti

    Streaming gratis

  19. Wow, looks like there really is a lot of street art going on in Austin. Given the feel of Austin these days, it makes sense! Not so much in our little Scottish village:)

  20. Hi Michelle! I love the street that you've found in Texas. The street art in Penang is fantastic, too. I saw a lot when I was there the last, and I'm sure much more has been painted since I was visited. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  21. I like that first photo too. We love visiting street art pieces. Some of the pieces here are good but the free for all walls kinda makes it look like any other graffiti laden wall in any other city. It is a great attempt by the city though. I love that office castle though. How cool to work in there.

  22. Parsimonious D├ęcor DarlingMarch 30, 2016 at 10:19 AM

    I love this post! I am a fan of Bansky's works (not political agenda) and I think it is wonderful that there is a place for street artists to showcase their work! This way, it really is art, not just vandalism.


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