If you’ve been to Austin Studio Tour in years past you know the drill, but we know lots of folks who haven’t been (and should go!), so we’ve got something of a primer for newbies as well as our basic recs for vets below. That way we can all take part in what is one of Austin’s weirdest and wildest times for events. You can witness things like sparks-flying welding taking place to light applause amongst a chill kegger, a UFO bar staffed by aliens, a fake record store complete with fake records, all activities we’ve taken part in during past years.
Formerly called EAST, and still sometimes referred to as EAST by people who don’t like change, the Austin Studio Tour is a series of hundreds of FREE events and art shows that take place over the first three weekends of November at venues throughout the city. These venues include traditional art studios and galleries, but also ordinary people’s houses and yards, theaters, office buildings, parks, condemned buildings, and anyplace else you can think of. There’s a map of all the official spaces here, and plenty of unofficial events that pop up throughout town.
The best way to do EAST (sorry; old habits die hard) is to park once, walk to every nearby art space, and just see what you find. This approach once led us into some random girl’s apartment and we wound up hanging out there for like an hour. It’s still unclear whether she was in fact an official Studio Tour stop or whether she just wanted company, but either way she fed us chips and tea, so it was an hour well spent.
There’s more to EAST than one person can ever do; like SXSW, you just have to come to peace with the fact that you will never see it all and appreciate whatever it is that you do see. Here are some of the stops we’re going to try to prioritize, though there are certainly many, many more that are worthwhile that we’re not even aware of.
Contracommon is hosting a big unofficial EAST kickoff party on the evening of Friday 11/3. It’s out in Bee Cave, but could well be worth the drive.
Bolm Studios is another good one-stop-shopping location. One year we saw some artist do a “virtual hot dog speedrun” here. This year they promise, among other attractions, “an absurdist pop-up guerrilla sculpture garden exhibiting 3D and interactive works.”
Sweatt House Art Gallery is in this gorgeous 1880s home in East Austin, so the Studio Tour gives you the opportunity to see 12 artists in there, plus 7 more arts and crafts vendors in their yard, plus you get to see inside a historic home, which I love. Plus last year they had a good cat.
Pietschhouse (pronounced Peach House) does a couple big art showcases each year with incredible attention to detail every time. Their theme this EAST is “aliens,” with an open bar, 45+ artists, and 16 bands.
We have no idea what the Museum of Human Achievement is doing for EAST this year, but in past years they’ve done a “selfie gauntlet” and a DIY video game arcade, so we are automatically interested in whatever they bring to the table. Plus, MoHA is right next to Canopy, which is home to more artists than any other single venue. (Personally, we tend not to prioritize Canopy on our own Studio Tour peregrinations because they host their own open studios on the first Saturday of every month. It’s a great building chock-full of art, but EAST is not the only occasion on which you can go in there.)
Grackle House has mastered the art of a good Studio Tour stop. Live music, free drinks, backyard animals, tons of artists, and good vibes, all at a cool Austin family’s home.
Good Dad Studios is one of the new stops this year that we’re most interested in checking out. Their grand opening on 11/11 boasts “80+ open studios, complimentary drinks, music, live mural art hosted by artists Zuzu and BLVD, and over 40 different artists pop ups throughout the 42,000 sq ft building space.”
Dear Diary is a great community space and vegan coffeeshop who will be hosting art vendors and performers during EAST. We don’t know who will be selling their wares there, but it’s always just a good space to be in.
Almost Real Things is one of our favorite arts organizations in town. They’re hosting a market with 40+ artists, DIY art, activities, and free drinks at their sizable HQ, and they’re running bus tours to some of the best studio stops throughout town.
The Future Front is hosting their massive annual art market at Ani’s Day and Night with different vendors, art workshops, food, and DJs each of the three weekends.
Highland Collective had our favorite installation last EAST—you can still visit its website, though the installation itself is long gone. Will they do anything nearly as cool this year? We will have to go and find out!
Those are just some spaces that we’ve liked in the past or that have caught our eye this year, but know that there are countless others that could be every bit as good. Go click around the Studio Tour map—or just start walking—and see what you find. And if you come across anything great during the first two weekends, tell us about it, and we’ll be sure to spread the word (or at least to check it out for ourselves).