Light At The End Of The Tunnel Vision


photo by Katie Busby

Katie Busby and Sarah Garrett

On multiple days throughout the spring and summer, Austin teens congregated at local venues to enjoy the music and art created by people around them and be able to visit an event designed specifically for them by people like them. Tunnel Vision, organized by senior Elise Ponder is an event ‘for teens, by teens’, giving Austin teenagers a space to share their art. People who visited the series were able to enjoy bands, purchase art, and support local businesses at all four events. 

Junior Sofia Francis was able to go to two of the Tunnel Vision events and said she really enjoyed them. Tunnel Vision not only offers music performances, but also art vendors, which Francis enjoyed. 

“Tunnel Vision was just such a great experience,” Francis said. “I was amazed by how well organized it was and how unique the different events were. My favorite part was the ambience. The alternative art market with live music playing in the background was such an exciting combo, something really reminiscent of Austin’s classic downtown music and vendor scene.”

Ponder organizes eachTunnel Vision event, with the first one taking place in April at the Far Out Lounge. She said that the event was important to people who enjoyed the classic Austin scene. 

“I really loved getting to see how much the event resonated with Austinites who remember ‘old Austin’,” Ponder said. “The vibe, the music, the dancing, the collective passion really shot a lot of older Austinites back into the authentic Austin “golden days”, and getting to hear their stories after the events and see their eyes light up meant the whole world to me. I also liked being able to help support some of my favorite local venues through these events, because most venues, along with the rest of the Austin music scene, have had a lot of trouble post-pandemic.”

Tunnel Vision featured many different artists and musicians throughout the series. Senior Aviva Shaevel sold her art at the first Tunnel Vision show. 

“At Tunnel Vision, I set up a booth displaying my original paintings as well as the prints of them that I was selling,” Shaevel said. “I spent most of my time there at my booth interacting with people who came to the show and selling my artwork.” 

Ponder also wanted a place for creative teens of Austin to showcase their work. She invited teens all around Austin to create a space designated to display art with specialties ranging from acrylic painting to acoustic guitar. 

“I just had a lot of creative friends, and there was no physical platform for them to show off their creativity,” Ponder said. “I just sent an email to a venue and wanted to see how far I could go with my idea. I went through a few different ideas. I almost decided to put on a “battle of the bands”, but I wanted to do something that would bring our local teens more niche musical and artistic community together.”

The series provided an opportunity for teens from around Austin to interact and see other people’s creativity. Shaevel really enjoyed this space and found it interesting to be able to see other people’s ideas come to life in their art. 

“My favorite part of Tunnel Vision was going around to all of the other booths that people had set up and looking at their work because it was really inspiring to see different peoples artwork as well,” Shaevel said.

Tunnel Vision had multiple events. There was a summer series event and a surprise show in July, which was followed by the final event in late August. Some people like Francis enjoyed the events so much they went to multiple. 

“The first show was definitely my favorite because of the sheer amount of people and the venue,” Francis said. “I also attended the end of summer bash because I wanted to see if anything had been changed or refined, but it was about the same idea with a much larger indoor/outdoor space.” 

With Ponder’s event series she was able to provide exposure for the teens who participated and connect possible fans to the artists by creating interest around the event. The event was promoted on Instagram and around various Austin high schools which also allowed possible vendors or bands to hear about the event.

“For the first event, I asked around and scouted different teen bands to see who would be interested in playing,” Ponder said. “After the first event, Instagram played a big part in letting artists and bands reach out to the Tunnel Vision account, @tunnelvisionatx, and send some music samples to see if they would be a good fit for the show. I tried to mix up different bands who played each show so that we could get as many people as much stage time as possible. For art vendors, I did pretty much the same thing. Vendors didn’t have to pay a fee for a table, and got to sell any product they wanted, as long as it was original.”

Tunnel Vision’s events brought together a community of many different people with similar interests by hosting events that allowed artistic teens to show off their talent. In the first show alone there were 7 different musical acts composed of Austin teens. Along with that there were also many art vendors and Shaevel said she really liked this. 

“My experience at Tunnel Vision was really great because I got to be surrounded by other high school artists like myself who are passionate about creating art,” Shaevel said. “It was nice to be a part of something like this where I could actually display and sell my art in a public setting because I’ve never had that opportunity before.”

Ponder put a lot of work into organizing the events throughout the series. She worked with the venues and the acts in order to provide the best experience she could.

“The only thing you can count on is something going wrong, and so I had to juggle a lot of moving parts before and during the show, as well as figure out logistical problems in the moment,” Ponder said. “My family and friends were always super helpful though, and I couldn’t have pulled these off without their help. But for each show, once the music started, all the hard work put into the shows were instantly worth it.” 

Tunnel Vision provided a space for young creators that existed just for the purpose of being a space where people could come together and share their ideas. It also gave artists a chance to sell their work to people and gain new customers, which Francis thought that this was a great idea.

“I think that Tunnel Vision was so incredible because it allowed teenagers to showcase their art in a public, informal setting, not only an opportunity to make a little bit of money but also to network with people your age and older,” Francis said. 

Along with gaining publicity in the Austin area, Shaevel said presenting art at Tunnel Vision helps artists gain more respect for their own art skills. When students see how other people appreciate their work, they can feel more proud of their contribution to the art community, according to Shaevel.

“It’s really important for young artists to have the opportunity to share their work with the public because it gives them more confidence to create knowing that there are other people who care about their work, and that they’re not solely creating art for themselves,” Shaevel said. 

The series Tunnel Vision has come for a close for now, but Ponder wants people to take something from it. The event aimed to give people a way to share creativity with each other, and that doesn’t have to stop with the current version of the series ending, according to Ponder.  

“I want people to be inspired by it,” Ponder said. “Whether that means creating their own events, or starting their own bands or small businesses, I think it could be a really unique movement in Austin to have more creative events ‘for teens, by teens.’ I have already been helping a few different people, both in Austin and in surrounding towns, put on their own mini events and festivals. I think it’s a great way to foster real community and creativity in our increasingly digital and isolated world.”