Sprouting signs for East Austin Studio Tour (EAST) are a sure sign that fall is here. The 14th annual EAST neighborhood event has artists of all mediums throughout east Austin sprucing up studios and putting finishing touches on art pieces for another wonderful community celebration of creativity.
Keith Kreeger, EAST Artist and Volunteer
Ceramics artist Keith Kreeger knows firsthand what magic EAST can work. Kreeger, who has been a potter his entire adult life, relocated from Cape Cod in 2009.
“Fourteen years ago, I married a Texan,” Kreeger said. “At some point, Texans all want to move home.” The couple scoped out the city and Kreeger moved his business creating dinnerware into a studio full of natural light in east Austin. He recalled being pleasantly shocked by how welcoming the community was: “Austin celebrates creativity in a way I’ve never seen. If you have a good idea, people say ‘yes.’”
It was a natural step for Kreeger to become involved with Big Medium and EAST. Big Medium is the non-profit organization that organizes EAST, as well as sister event West Austin Studio Tour and the curated Texas Biennial. Big Medium’s mission is to “promote visual arts and artists in Texas.”
Three years ago, Kreeger participated in his first EAST. He described the experience as “a snapshot of what’s happening in the art world on the east side.” An event that began with some 12 participating studios has blossomed to more than 400. Regarding his first year, Kreeger recalled, “I knew maybe two people, and then on Nov. 1 [the tour date], people found me. I said,‘Hey, I’m Keith; I make things.’”
EAST Promotes Community
That simple introduction blossomed in ways Kreeger never expected. What had been primarily a tourist-town, retail-driven business out of Cape Cod morphed into wholesale ventures with specialty shops and, most recently, restaurant- and chef-focused custom collaborations. Who’d have imagined a potter would be giving demonstrations to musicians at ACL Fest? Not to mention partnering on Nov. 17, 2015 with Ryan McKerley to create Make.Eat.Drink.2015, a collaborative dinner between Austin’s celebrity chefs and ceramic artists?
Kreeger chalks up interest in ceramics to part of a “real things matter” movement, something he sees as an integral aspect of Austin’s psyche. And he ties the city’s creative scene into a vibrancy reflected from the business sector. “A city either grows or dies; there’s nothing in between,” Kreeger explained. “Austin’s restaurant, art and tech worlds all play off one another. If we can keep communication and respect going [between these entities], we keep creativity flowing.”
An Artist’s Day at EAST
Kreeger and his studio manager Eliana Bernard start seriously prepping for the tour the first week of November. The studio in east Austin’s Canopy art center (916 Springdale Road) gets tidied and they make sure shelves are stocked. Other than that, the space will look pretty much as it does on any given work day–which is the point of EAST, to bridge the divide between artist and art lover.
At 9:30 a.m. the day of the tour, clean up and prep commence. The doors open at 11 a.m., and Kreeger, his family and Bernard are on hand to answer questions and talk to curious guests. By 6 p.m., the doors are supposed to close, but Kreeger laughed ruefully at this. Like the weekends’ vibe, closing is casual.
This year, Kreeger has an added responsibility as an EAST volunteer. He has attended meetings and helped plan the various mid-week events that complement the tour (see list at the end of this article). In addition to showing his studio, Kreeger will help run point on issues that arise. He’ll catch up on sleep on Thursday and then do it all again during the second weekend. But he loves the activity.
“As an artist, you’re stuck in the studio,” Kreeger said. “I live vicariously through the people who walk in the door during EAST.”
2015 EAST Events
Due EAST Party (Annual Fundraiser)
When: Nov. 5, 2015, from 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: 1500 E. 4th St.
About: Kickoff to tour features more than 300 works in a group exhibition of participating EAST artists, as well as performances, food and drinks.
Tickets: $65 in advance, $150 for VIP
14th Annual East Austin Studio Tour
When: Nov. 14–15 and 21–22, 2015, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekend
Where: See website or catalogue for locations
Tickets: Free to public; curated bus tour tickets are $200
Catalogs are FREE. Thanks to partnership with the Austin Public Library, catalogues will be available at all branches on Nov. 9, 2015 (supplies are limited).
EAST Free Community Breakfast
When: Nov. 14, 2015, from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
Where: EAST Group Exhibition Space (1501 E. 6th St.)
EAST Closing Party
When: Nov. 22, 2015, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Tillery Place (801 Tillery St.)
Tickets: Free to public (more details to be announced)
To purchase event tickets and find more information, visit the EAST website.
@Leahruns100 wants to know:
If you could have mad skills in one art form, what would you create?