Seeing art with your kids? Give E.A.S.T. a try

Foster Talge’s metal sculpture at ARTPOST. Photo courtesy of Bernadette Noll.


Before you think I’m crazy, repeat after me: I can do E.A.S.T. with my kids. Yes, you might still have PTSD from that time you attempted to take your children to a museum, only to be met with disapproving looks from the other patrons and shushings from the docents. You might be conflicted about whether your littles are indeed capable of inside voices or if they can be anything but a bull in a china shop. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Try not to let the mere fact that you possess offspring keep you from seeing lots of great art around town this coming weekend at the East Austin Studio Tour.

First, let me back up. The East Austin Studio Tour, or, as it’s most commonly known, E.A.S.T., is a free, self-guided open house to showcase the efforts of our hardworking creatives. Now in its 12th year, E.A.S.T. is an opportunity to see artists in their own spaces, observe the creative process, talk to the makers, support our thriving art scene and give your kids a chance to see that making art doesn’t stop just because you grow up.

Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years at E.A.S.T., when I have taken my son along with me:

  • Get a catalog. I realize it’s probably too late to get your hands on one of these beauties this year, but having the physical catalog makes it much easier to decide which stops would work best for you and your family. (Pro tip: make a mental note…or even a reminder in your calendar for next year, to get one right when they arrive at libraries. I missed getting one last year, but this year Google Calendar saved the day). Since the tour also took place last weekend, you can always try asking around to see if anyone you know has a catalog and went last weekend and doesn’t plan to return. If you didn’t snag a catalog, you can check out the website and you might want to print out a map to get the lay of the land easier than you might on the mobile site.
  • Focus, focus. When I looked at the listings, I kept a few things in mind:
    • I prioritized venues where we could see a lot of artists in one place (I’ll list my picks below, but Canopy Austin is one example).  This cuts down on the walking and getting in and out of the car with your little people. If you can bike, by all means, do so, but do keep in mind it is congested around the studios.
    • I looked for opportunities for demonstrations and other hands on experiences. This is what makes going to E.A.S.T. different from heading to a typical art gallery. It goes without saying that kids get more out of the stops which allow them to participate.
    • I tried to find stops which were at least five blocks east of downtown, since I’ve found that parking just east of IH-35 is tricky. One option might be to take the Metrorail to Plaza Saltillo and walk from there. If you have any tips for parking closer to downtown, please share them in the comments and we can add them here.
  • Pick your battles. We did E.A.S.T. this year after the Fan Fest, and my little man was done after two hours. The older he gets, the easier it is, and the longer we stay, so I’m usually happy with whatever he can do. Pro tip: Several of the studios had bowls of snacks or candy. My kid was allowed to have one thing at each place, which meant that he had a lot more sweets than he is used to. This probably allowed us to hit another 10 studios than we would have otherwise. In fact, when I asked him what I should share about E.A.S.T., he mentioned how when he reached for a Twizzlers stick at one stop, two were stuck together, so he ended up getting to eat both. It’s always great when your kids walk away with a real understanding of the art!
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  • Not all art is made with kids in mind. Yes, this may seem obvious, but it’s always good to remember that you may see works of art which you may not feel completely comfortable with your kids seeing. For the first time, this year I had artists warn me when I entered that certain material was inappropriate for kids. I really appreciated that, although I didn’t find there was anything I was really upset with my son seeing. For the most part, I could steer him away from anything that seemed a little troubling. So, if you are sensitive to what your children see, you may want to do additional research on each individual studio.

After poring through this year’s catalog, and having been the last few years, here are my picks of where to head this weekend:

  • Scott Rolfe – 1: Scott will have his new “Carnival Discardia” series on display, made of upcycled materials. This caught my eye because it is quite far north and decidedly off the beaten path, and I think kids would find his work appealing.
  • Peter Struble – 5a: The Austin Soundscape Project designs sculptural musical installations for parks, playgrounds and public spaces. What kid doesn’t love when music is incorporated into play? Although this isn’t walking distance from stop #1, it is in the general vicinity.
  • Christine Terrell – 17a:  Christine Terrell heads up Adaptive Reuse Studios and makes jewelry out of upcycled tin, as well as encaustic painting and other media. Christine will be sharing her house with a photographer, a jeweler who creates out of upcycled dishware, a cigar box guitarmaker (!) and a found object sculptor. Not only is this a place you could start your holiday shopping, but they will also give you a chance to try your hand at encaustic painting, punching tin circles (I did it — it’s very satisfying!) and mosaic making.
  • Faith Schexnayder – 46.3: Faith creates large sculptures to display outdoors. She will be at Smith Road Studios, which is also a little off the beaten path, which makes parking a little easier. There are several other artists with work displayed during the tour near her studio.
  • Kevin McNamee-Tweed – 49.3k: Kevin draws on rocks. Simple and accessible for kids. Plus, Kevin’s at the Big Medium Studios at Bolm, along with another 20 artists you can check out.
  • MakeATX – 50.2: Lasers. Need I say more?
  • Pump Project – 53.1a: Over fifty artists unleash their creatives juices at the Pump Project and the Satellite location, just down the road. While we didn’t make it this year (yet), this was definitely a great stop in years past, with lots of different types of art. The Pump Project will have KIND snacks and beer on hand, and The Best Wurst will sell food.
  • Michelle Traughber – 57.1ii: Another artist suggested we visit Michelle’s studio when we were making our way around the vast Canopy Austin complex. Along with a few pieces of art were several signs inviting visitors to paint and draw upon easels. After seeing at least twenty studios, my son was inspired, and so we spent a good 20 minutes there while he sketched a scene he called “The Power of Zeus”. It was clear that another girl and her brother had been drawing for quite some time before we arrived. Michelle provided encouraging words for these artists. While I was waiting, I found out that she does art classes for kids afterschool and small classes for adults in the evenings.The number of artists at Canopy Austin was truly mind-boggling, but just a few other studios we liked were Chun Hui Pak, who showed us how her designs were inspired by unfolding origami designs and noticing the resulting shadows and Sarah Wymer, who was printing on a letterpress when we walked through and showed us how it worked. 
  • Austin Creative Reuse – 63.7: Visitors have the opportunity to participate in a craft project and learn more about the organization, which is dedicated to collecting, selling and distributing donated reusable materials.
  • 9th Street Tinkering/Art Oasis: For Kids! – 73: Kids have the opportunity to take part in several art projects, including an Open: Make, and take projects home with them. See photos from last weekend here.
  • TSOS in EAST Sculpture on the Grounds – 84: 2D and 3D artists will have works on display on the grounds of the French Legation Museum. Demonstrations will also take place throughout the weekend. Closeby is the Clayworks Studio Gallery, which will also have demonstrations during E.A.S.T. and is another great shopping opportunity.
  • Austin Public Library – Terrazas Branch – 93: Artist and educator Jennie Tudor Gray will be presenting her students’ work at the library and an interactive Wish Tree will be outside. For the third year, you are welcome to come and make a wish and tie it to the tree.
  • Griffon Ramsey – 113: Mostly, I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the concept of live chainsaw sculpting, but there will also be experimental video, live spray painting and mixed media at the FORT. Dos Equis is sponsoring a Live Art Happy Hour on Friday from 5-8pm.
  • Sky Candy – 136.2a: Sky Candy is an aerial and circus arts studio, which will be hosting performances every day of the tour at 1:30pm, an upside down photo booth and a $10 intro to aerial skills day from 2:30-4pm (reservations required). Nearby is the East Side Glass Studio, among other spaces.
  • Foster Talge – 158.1q: I didn’t see this in person, but I saw photos later, which makes me want to try to make it to see Foster’s huge metal tree sculptures. ARTPOST also has another 30 artists who will be on hand during E.A.S.T.

Last, but certainly not least, you can head on over to Farmhouse Delivery from noon until 6pm each day of E.A.S.T. for their FEAST event at Rain Lily Farm. From 2-6pm, kids can enjoy adorning a community canvas and trying their hand at mask-making, beekeeping, hula hooping, seed planting and more. Food is available for purchase on site, and from 3-6pm Happy Hour will feature music and beer. Here are photos from weekend one.

If you made it to E.A.S.T. last weekend, what were your favorites?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 7-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]

About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".