Anyone who has ever been to Blanton Museum of Art, explored East Austin Studio Tour, or visited any of Austin’s other amazing museums or festivals knows this city has an artistic side. And you don’t even have to darken the door of a museum or gallery to appreciate art in Austin. The city has its fair share of public art pieces melded into the cityscape. Some are sculptures and statues memorializing important people in Austin’s history, others are functional as well as sculptural, and some are purely aesthetic.
The city of Austin participates in the Art in Public Places (AIPP) program that collaborates with locally- and nationally-renowned artists to bring new cultural landmarks to Austin. There are now hundreds of pieces in the collection. Join me on an art walk (or drive, really) to some of my favorite Austin public art pieces.
Our walk begins on South Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road, just south of the Congress Avenue Bridge that 1.5 million bats call home. “Nightwings” is a fitting emblem of Bat City and celebrates Austinites’ love of these nocturnal bridge dwellers. Created by Austin local Dale Whistler, this sculpture stands 18 feet tall and is made of aluminum that slowly spins on a concrete base, its movement directed by the wind. Conveniently located near the Statesman Bat Observation Center, this is one bat that’s hard to miss, even if you come too late to see the living mammals emerge.
300 S. Congress Ave.
2/ Open Room
Heading north across Lady Bird Lake at Sand Beach Park, you’ll find “Open Room Austin.” One of my life’s mottos is that the best (and often rarest) art pieces are those you can also eat on. “Open Room” is not only a sculptural creation, but also a nice place to picnic or enjoy a workday lunch out of the office. It consists of a 24-foot-long table with a metal “lace” tablecloth, benches and lighting structures that are all made from aluminum. It was created by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt and put in place in 2010.
115 Sandra Muraida Way
3/ Grotto Wall at Sparky Park
Heading farther north (this is when a car becomes helpful), we reach Sparky Park on Grooms Street, just south of 38th Street. Created at the site of a former electric substation, the fixture of this pocket park is an intriguing masonry wall decorated with all manner of curiosities. The wall was created by Berthold Hass and constructed from stone harvested from a Hill Country ranch. Embedded in the wall are trees made from petrified wood and other oddities. The artist worked with the neighborhood to create this playful wall of arches and tunnels. Many of the objects in the wall were even contributed by area residents The result is a whimsical homage to the neighborhood and those who worked hard to create this little gem of a park.
3701 Grooms St.
4/ And He Was Sad
Just a little bit south of Sparky Park and north of UT sits Eastwoods Park. Eeyore’s Birthday has been a landmark Austin festival for decades and is strongly associated with its current home in Pease Park. But insiders know the first celebration of everyone’s favorite morose livestock occurred right here at Eastwoods. The bronze statue of Eeyore, looking appropriately downtrodden, stands in the park in recognition of this important milestone. The sculpture is called “And He Was Sad” and was created by Austin local Bob Coffee, whose sculptures appear around the world.
3001 Harris Park Ave.
If you want to discover more Austin public art pieces, the AIPP has provided a number of art walks and self-guided tours for whatever your artistic interest. Like monuments to Texas history? There’s an art walk for that. Want to turn your daily jog on Lady Bird Lake into an art tour? It can be done. There’s even an art walk for keeping Austin weird! Check out some of the city’s suggestions or use them as inspiration to curate your own unique Austin art experience.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are some of your favorite pieces of Austin public art?
Susan grew up in Texas, but took a circuitous route to settling in Austin–by way of Arkansas and New York. She loves hiking, gardening and spending far too much money on various preserved things at Central Market.