The block of South End Avenue between Mayfield and Mason avenues came alive with music, art and yoga on the warm Saturday morning of July 28. The Awesome Austin Art Fair was organized by the nonprofit Redevelopment Management Resources, the Central Austin Neighborhood Association (CANA) and the Third Unitarian Church.
The idea was not only to spotlight and provide support for art and culture in Austin, but to get the residents involved. Residents were welcome to stop by, look at and purchase art. A yoga area with a massage chair was set up for residents who wanted to relax and some of the artists who took part in the event offered free art classes.
Serethea Mathews-Reed, president of CANA and a board member for Redevelopment Management Resources, said that they launched the art fair to create "an interactive, multidimensional experience where artists and the Austin community can engage in beauty and peace."
"The idea is to give people another outlet for relaxing, engaging and communication, and exploring their creativity," she said.
Artist Andrea Odien was among several artists who taught classes at the fair. Odien instructed attendees on how to make teddy bears out of towels. She has been a postal worker for 25 years and she said she started doing art as a way to cope with her mother struggling, and eventually dying from, kidney disease.
"[Creating art] is a great way to relieve stress," Odien reflected.
She was inspired to make teddy bears out of towels after she saw someone do something like that in a Youtube video and decided to try it for herself.
She found out about the fair from a co-worker and she thought that it was a great way to give back to her community.
"[I hope that taking the class] expands [people's] imagination, to show that even the smallest thing in life gets you the biggest joy" she said. "It's one of the things you can do that's quick, effortless, but it brings joy. And that's what I hope — to spread joy."
Antonia Rupert also exhibited at the fair. While she currently lives in Berwyn, she grew up and spent much of her life in Austin. She said that she's been painting professionally for 25 years.
"My work stems around community, it stems around color, it stems around story," Rupert said.
Not long after she moved to Berwyn, Rupert said, she met a woman in the local laundry. The two wound up chatting, and Rupert learned that the other woman was coping with the loss of her husband. Rupert wound up creating a piece that she hoped would embody both her grief and her inner strength.
The artist said that events like the fair are vital for Austin, especially for kids who may see art as something they do in school, as opposed to something that applies to them and that they can create.
"It's so important for the next generation to see art in their community, to see art [as part of] their community and not outside the norm," Rupert said. "When I was young, I had to travel by trianin to the Art Institute, I had to travel to Oak Park to see art, and I hope that people will come by today and say – this is a new day."
Ayo Turner is another Austin native who left the neighborhood, though she didn't go quite as far, moving to South Side's Chatham neighborhood. She described her work as "4-D" because her paintings that often include other materials sticking out.
"I use a lot of stones, I use a lot of CDs, I use a wire," Turner said. "I've been inspired by everyday things, beautiful people. Nature inspires me, music inspires me to paint."
Like many other artists, she said that she hoped that her work would inspire Austin residents who stop by.
"I want them to feel moved," Turner said. "I enjoy hearing people say art speaks to them."
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