Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Austin’s Temporary Art

Nov. 4, 2015

Established by the City of Austin in 1985, the Art in Public Places program is celebrating its 30th year with TEMPO, a project consisting of ten new art installations placed temporarily around the city. From August 17 until January 18, ten TEMPO projects will be installed in various districts of Austin in attempt to get citizens to explore their city in new ways.

As a whole, the Art in Public Places program (AIPP) aims to collaborate with artists to create works that communicate Austin’s values, culture and history.

Funding for Art in Public Places comes from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which, according to the website of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, is a tax imposed on the rental of hotel rooms, bed and breakfasts, condominiums, apartments, and houses. The tax is 9 percent the cost of the room.

Each public art project has a minimum amount of $3000 and a maximum amount of $10,000 available in terms of funding.

This past spring, Art in Public Places put out an open call for proposals for pieces of art to be included in the TEMPO project, named for it’s “temporary” aspect.

Anna Bradley, Art in Public Places coordinator, said that a three-member selection panel comprised of interior designer Christ McCray, visual artist and gallery director Jade Walker and artist and independent curator Jaime Castillo reviewed each proposal.

“Each proposal from artists included a sketch or rendering of the artwork, a narrative, preliminary budget, exhibition schedule and site location,” Bradley said. “The intent for the temporary public art is to cultivate curiosity, spark imagination and engage the community in a meaningful dialogue about public art and foster work by local artists and cultivate tourism,”

Carolyn Volk, 25, moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas at Austin and remained in the city after completing her degree. Volk visited Omission while it was located at Longhorn Shores Park and fully supports the government’s involvement with the arts.

“I believe that a portion of tax dollars should be used on public art projects,” Volk said. “Art is an important form of creativity and self expression that encourages people to observe and be aware of things outside of themselves.”

Ryan Massey, 20, a junior pursuing an art minor at Texas A&M University, made a point to visit Earth Mother while in town visiting family. Massey says that art is an integral way for citizens to connect with their city.

“I think it’s so important that the government funds these projects because it gives them a way to connect with citizens beyond laws and elections.” Massey said. “It shows that they care about all that this city has to offer, including local artists.”

Bradley said that overall feedback for the project has been positive.

“Each project has engaged the viewers in unique and different ways,” Bradley said. “Many viewers are discovering the artworks in their normal routine and posting pictures of themselves with the artworks, while other viewers are seeking out each artwork from our maps and publications.”

While most feedback may have been positive, not all citizens have treated the installations with respect.

Las Piñatas, a TEMPO installation in Edward Rendon Sr. Park by David Goujon consisting of three, bright colored, 10-foot tall piñatas on display from Oct. 9 until Nov. 22 were a subject of vandalism just nine days after their installation. The giant piñatas were knocked out of their concrete bases and tire prints and beer cans covered the ground around the sculptures.

According to Goujon’s proposal, his concept for the piñatas was “in response to the Lejarazu family having their piñata store, Jumpolin, razed to the ground with their personal belongings and merchandise inside.”

Jumpolin was an East Austin piñata shop that was destroyed overnight Feb. 12 after the landlord insisted that the owners had not paid rent for the month of February. The destruction of the Jumpolin store led to conversation surrounding the gentrification of East Austin. According to Goujon’s proposal, Las Piñatas seeks to prove that “every act of creation begins as a form of destruction and every city will see parts of itself die as it grows and expands.”

The piñatas will be restored and celebrated Nov. 14.