Art is represented in many ways within a city, from traditional art museums and historical buildings to theater and music. Graffiti, however, hasn’t always been accepted as a viable art form and has often been stigmatized.
But here in Austin where murals are a plenty, graffiti has transformed into street art, and a mural is a must if you are looking to be Austin. And thank goodness for that because art lives in the soul of every city.
Austin’s weird and eccentric vibe is what draws people in, but it’s also most at risk of changing as people continue to move here. At the forefront of keeping this creative energy alive in Austin through street art is a small group of people known as SprATX.
SprATX is unique in that it’s both a collective of artists and a business. The lines are often blurred, but the end results are the same – SprATX makes art accessible to all and helps build communities.
SprATX the Collective
We all notice when new graffiti appears in the middle of the night like a dream. But more often than not, we don’t know the faces behind the signatures that brand the art, such as Bunce, Briks or G52. Their impressive works of art are often temporary, only lasting a few days until they are removed or tagged by other artists or kids.
Earlier this year, I featured the HOPE Outdoor Gallery at Castle Hill, which boasts some of the best street art in the city. Little did I know that HOPE was the birthplace of this fascinating up-and-coming organization.
Day after day, week after week, artists would visit regularly to paint and share their artwork at this unique location. As they painted, friendships and partnerships emerged and eventually they formed the art collective SprATX.
The collective helps put faces to the names we see splattered around the city and give credit where credit is due. The collective also creates an environment where artists can feel safe creating and sharing, while also helping society at large celebrate this once controversial art form.
The business side of the collective evolved when a need for inexpensive spray paint and materials for artists grew. Four artists partnered up, at first part-time, to try to solve the rising problems of the fast growing street artist community.
As their services grew, so did their time commitment. In January 2014, they opened the first brick and mortar location at 501 Pedernales, 2A. The storefront not only serves SprATX and local artists as a place they can buy materials, but it doubles as an art gallery to showcase their work. It’s a great place to buy original pieces, prints, books and clothing for gifts, or to simply fill your bare walls.
But it’s not your typical run-of-the-mill art gallery. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill art store either. With no formal business plan, SprATX the business is a unique cross between coaching, scheduling, managing and live art. They allow the artistic creativity of the sum of the collective to drive the direction of the business. Which is pretty amazing and surprisingly successful.
They provide artistic creative development for artists, helping them become full-time professional artists. But they also help coordinate commissions for those looking for mural work in their businesses or homes. They have also been able to help connect local artists with local organizations like Fun Fun Fun Fest and SXSW, as well as not so local businesses like the X-Games. Even the 2014 ACL poster features work by local SprATX street artist Mike Johnston, known as TRUTH.
I met with one of SprATX’s owners, Molly, and we spoke about the collective, the store and the rising art scene in Austin. She explained that they provide a number of services for both the collective and community at large, such as mural work, event planning, brand building, social media marketing and creative solutions. You can also apply for a permit to paint at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery through SprATX the business.
While they don’t have formal plans to expand the SprATX collective, there are several ways they are looking to grow and ways community members can get involved. What’s amazing about this business is that it’s just like our lovely Austin: the sum of all its moving parts is greater than one piece or one artist.
Join the Party
We are creative beings. Creativity lives inside of us as a traditional artistic talent, such as painting, drawing, singing or acting, or something more non-traditional, such as brewing, the culinary arts, or graphic design.
By simply engaging with art, in whatever way satisfies your drive, art becomes a living thing that continues to grow.
In this fast-growing Austin art community, SprATX recognizes the need to foster community in fun and exciting ways. For example, you can thank them for Free Art Friday – which is basically a scavenger hunt for adults to find hidden pieces from their favorite artists. You can also thank them for events such as the quarterly Live Art Battle – the March Madness of art where you can watch finalists in real time, battling for the title. They even do live paint parties at the store and throw Art First parties.
While I just mentioned a lot of SprATX parties, be on the look out for more “serious” projects to be added to the mix, such as art classes, demo videos, community building and artist exchange programs. If you can dream it, they can do it.
Who’s your favorite SprATX artist?