Austin Studio Tour

STRICKING HUES: On Nov. 20, viewers look at artist Adrian Armstrongs series There Are Black People in Nebraska?! in the East Austin section of the Austin Studio Tour. The Austin Studio Tour took place on weekends between Nov. 5 and Nov. 20. photo by Ella Lilly.

STRICKING HUES: On Nov. 20, viewers look at artist Adrian Armstrong’s series “There Are Black People in Nebraska?!” in the East Austin section of the Austin Studio Tour. The Austin Studio Tour took place on weekends between Nov. 5 and Nov. 20. photo by Ella Lilly.

Helen Bigge, Staffer

The Austin Studio Tour is an annual event spanning three weekends from Nov. 5 through Nov. 20. Traditionally split between the East and West Austin Studio Tours, the first post-quarantine event spans across Austin and features over 500 local artists. 

Cat Quintanilla, professionally referred to as Stone Carver Cat, is an artist specializing in a variety of medians, from sculptures, to paintings, to mixed media. Quintanilla  has featured her studio in the tour for the past several decades.

“It really grounds new people to the community in that they have patronized and helped make a living for artists that live here,” Quintanilla said. “And they also have a story to tell with each piece of art that they acquire, saying, ‘Oh, well I got this from a local artist,’ or ‘The materials were locally sourced and produced here, and I’m part of the community.’” 

Jessica Fisher said that she and fellow art teacher, Elizabeth Hewitt, used to have everyone from their art classes write their midterm paper about an artist they talked to on the tour but have made it optional since COVID-19. Fisher has friends who regularly host during the tour, and one of her students is also participating this year.

“Some of those spaces [that people host in] are galleries,” Fisher said. “Some of those are people’s homes which is cool because they invite you into their home and their workspace, and some of them are set up in public areas.”

Quintanilla opened up her West Austin studio to showcase her work during the first two weeks of the tour, Nov. 5 through Nov. 13. Her workspace in Sunset Valley was  Studio 199 in the tour this year. However, the East Austin tour is featured the last two weeks, with the second week featuring spaces from East and West of IH-35.

“I create large-scale, five, six, seven hundred pound sculptures that end up in sculpture parks,” Quintanilla said. “I just brought one back that was in the Govalle Sculpture Park. I enjoy the fact that people will see something of mine in a public setting, and then they contact me and become a client and say, ‘I really would like a large bear or a large whatever for my own home.’”

Because of this relationship between Quintanilla and her clients, she is able to have a stable relationship with her fans. The Studio Tour allows for artists to connect with their viewers on a personal level through art.

“It becomes like creating a relationship in many cases with my clients that I’ve had for years who get excited to see what the next thing that I will produce will look like,” Quintanilla said. “If I had to just put it very simply, the tour is about creating relationships with the artists in your life, and enjoying it while you’re doing it. It’s just not an acquisition, it is a relationship with both the piece of artwork and the artist themself.”

BigMedium is the organization that puts together the Austin Studio Tour every year, along with other events to showcase artists and their work. The organization creates a catalog with all the artists and their work to help people find different artists on the tour.

“I would recommend going -and I always do- going to BigMedium, which is on Springdale Road,” Fisher said. “It’s close to here, and it’s also got the most artists housed in one location, so you don’t have to drive all over the city, and it has a wide variety. It’s all studio spaces that people work in year-round, they pay for those spaces and that’s where they create their art, and they open them up to you to walk in and see their work and the area that they do their process in.”

Moyo Oyelola is a local artist who recently joined the BigMedium board. Prior to his board membership, he had a residency with BigMedium at the LINE hotel in downtown Austin, and he now has a show at the George Washington Carver Museum that runs from November 2022 through February 2023.

“I think the challenge and what people don’t see is -it’s not like it’s a ton of people working on [the Studio Tour], it’s a small number of people on the BigMedium staff working on it,” Oyelola said. “Since joining the board, I’ve always understood that, but you definitely get to see it in real time, what it takes to do that– from people coming up to pick up their booklets or signage or anything like that. It’s just a lot of work, but it currently reaches thousands of people here every year.”

Oyelola says that several artist friends have been priced out of the Austin art market, making it difficult to participate in community events like the Austin Studio Tours. According to Oyelola, Austin has experienced a great deal of growth providing a difficult working environment for struggling artists. 

“Every artist has different needs, but in general, if BigMedium can provide an ecosystem where people come to them, and they can help direct artists or direct people to artists, whether it’s collectors or other institutions,” Oyelola said. “And on top of maybe taking artists’ work outside of Austin into different markets, that becomes the way in which BigMedium, the way I know, is actively propelling and helping the local environment.”

 Oyelola feels that there is more that we need to do as a city to help the artistic community, but BigMedium’s studio tours take a big step towards helping artists. The tour provides exposure to all sorts of artists across the city and gives Austinites the chance to explore the local artistic movement.