Editor’s Note: The HOPE Outdoor Gallery closed on Jan. 2, 2019. A new location will open later in the year.
There are a few mainstays in Austin I like to take visitors to when they visit. My list includes the impressive Capitol Building, which is taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C., Whole Foods headquarters, where you can get a $5 smoothie, Zilker Park to fly a kite, and anything on South Congress. But there’s one place that embodies the true spirit and weirdness of our city, and every resident and visitor must experience it: the graffiti wall at Castle Hill.
Tucked away on Baylor and 11th near Whole Foods, this is one of my favorite places in Austin because it has a great energy and amazing art. When I say graffiti wall, I don’t mean just one wall like the “i love you so much” graffiti at Jo’s Coffee Shop or the Austin Postcard at Roadhouse Relics. I’m talking about a three-story playground for artists.
On my most recent trip, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. It was a sign announcing the arrival of the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.
I’ll admit, the sign may not be so new. After all, every time I go to Castle Hill I’m there to see the graffiti, not read the signs. But my curiosity was spiked enough to look into this Hope Outdoor Gallery a bit more.
History of the HOPE Outdoor Gallery
From what I understand, the half-developed space was initially slated for housing (surprise, surprise), but the property owners ran into some zoning problems. From that time on, the space sat empty, calling out for its boring white concrete walls to be painted upon.
The property owners, Dick Clark Architecture and Castle Hill Partners, could have easily considered the hundreds of gallons of paint used on their property as vandalism. Instead, they happily allow people to come paint on their million-dollar property.
Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Prime real estate, downtown, with a great view of the city, not being developed into housing, but rather being “vandalized.” So I did more digging.
For years, the energy of this undeveloped space drew artists and art aficionados alike. It was only in 2011 that it was crowned with the title of HOPE Outdoor Gallery, becoming one of the largest outdoor galleries in Texas. HOPE stands for Helping Other People Everywhere, a movement created in 2006 by Shepard Fairey to help raise awareness around Darfur, Sudan.
So it was true. Instead of blowing the whistle on vandals, the property owners saw an opportunity to keep Austin weird and support the local community by allowing the space to be used as a sort of inspirational message board.
Who Can Paint on Castle Hill?
While one of the most unique showcases available for artists in Austin, not everyone has permission to participate. It is considered trespassing if you paint on the wall without approval. I mean, you can’t just walk into an art museum and hang your artwork on the walls, right?
But Castle Hill definitely offers a great source of inspiration, and a place where artists can come together to share their positive messages with the world. For those interested in participating, email email@example.com. Otherwise, participate like I do, by visiting, enjoying the walls and taking a few photographs.
Because HOPE Outdoor Gallery changes continuously, it deserves a visit, or five. So the next time you have a friend in town, swing by Whole Foods downtown, grab a smoothie, and take a quick stroll over to Baylor and 11th. After all, outside food and drinks are allowed at this art gallery.
Have you been to HOPE Outdoor Gallery at Castle Hill?