The Writings on the Wall: Reflecting on the Old and Looking to the New HOPE Gallery

Katie Busby and LiLi Xiong

A collage of Austinites’ artistic works. That is essentially what the HOPE Outdoor Gallery is. The plot that is home to HOPE Outdoor Gallery was originally a failed condo development abandoned in the 1980s, leaving behind a canvas for the art that was to come. 

Eventually, it became a space for ever-changing public art as Austin graffiti artists added to its walls. In 2011, the HOPE organization took charge of the space and transformed it into a place for the creation and observation of art after opening it to the public. It was housed at its original location for around eight years until it was bought by a new developer. Now they are set to open a new and bigger space soon. 

The HOPE Outdoor Gallery has housed various artworks, both small pieces made by newcomers, and large scale pieces like murals contributed by more experienced artists. Sophomore Ramona Gonzalez enjoyed the gallery and found it to be very inspirational. 

“I was interested in going to the HOPE Gallery because I thought it was a very positive way to celebrate the art of graffiti,” Gonzalez said. “Graffiti in Austin can be seen as kinda tacky, but the HOPE Gallery lets folks come together and do creative graffiti legally, and I thought it was a really cool way of doing that.”  

Freshman Bailey Hall didn’t know there were local graffiti artists working at the park along with the normal people visiting and creating art until she went to visit it. The gallery was intended to be a space for anyone to try out murals and spray painting, but it also had graffiti artists working in it, which Hall observed. 

“I was interested in going to the HOPE Gallery because I met someone who was an actual graffiti artist,” Hall said. “It’s near my house, and we’ve been near it, and we met one of the graffiti artists who works on the wall. We thought it would be cool to go see what artists were making on the wall.” 

Freshman Ella Brotman noted that the gallery gave exposure to different graffiti artists with a variety of art. She said some of her favorites were the large scale murals and realistic works. 

“I really liked the graffiti paintings with the highlights that looked really realistic,” Brotman said. “I thought those were really cool.”

The HOPE gallery’s original location was spread out over a hillside in downtown Austin. Its concrete structures were the foundations of the condos that were abandoned, but they lent themselves to the paintings spread across the gallery. Gonzalez said she how this was a gallery to appreciate street art and all the cool pieces spread around the structures. 

“I don’t remember if it had a name next to it or if someone titled it, but there was a really cool one in a sort of tunnel-like cave part of the exhibit.” Gonzalez said. “They had incorporated the shape into their design, and it was a well with stuff around the well, and they made it like an optical illusion.” 

The HOPE gallery was covered with many layers of paint before it was demolished and they moved to the new location. It was used as a place for people to both display and contribute to street art. 

“I feel like it just adds a cool element to Austin,” Hall said. “Anyone can contribute, rather than like an indoor gallery or something where you have to be accepted into it.” 

Gonzalez said that to her, the park emulates all the positive parts of graffiti. She thinks it’s a really unique part of the Austin art scene. 

“I also liked some of the positive messages that are spread through graffiti around the park and some of the hope,” Gonzalez said. “I think the gallery has a good name because you can see the hope in the art in the gallery.” 

The HOPE gallery’s original location closed in 2019 when a new developer bought the land and the condos that were originally going to be there became the plan for the land again. The gallery is opening their new location near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in east Austin, which, after delays, is set to open soon. 

According to the website, the new location is supposed to be a cultural center which celebrates the old gallery while adding new elements. It is set to be around 18 acres of open air space, and will have many walls for visitors to paint along with exhibits and sculptures and commodities like food and drinks. 

“My hopes for the new location are that it is very accessible for everyone just like it was,” Gonzalez said. “I hope it keeps the same culture that it has about being positive and staying open to everyone.”