Austin Art Space – Innovative studio/gallery co-op in north central Austin
The non-profit Austin Visual Arts Association took over operation of Austin Art Space in January 2011 as a way to expand the opportunities for Austin artists to exhibit their work. The space continues to be run as a collective, managed by AVAA. AVAA and the resident artists are committed to providing a professional space where emerging and established artists can create, collaborate and present their work. Annual juried shows that began at Art Space and at Artspoken continue unabated and are now complemented by numerous AVAA member shows.
Emerging from the Heart and Experience of Artspoken
It was an old house on Koenig Lane. That’s where three of the founding members of the Austin Art Space co-op shared studio and gallery space at Artspoken Gallery. Valerie Walden, Jan Knox and Rebecca Bennett came to appreciate the effects of a mutually supportive creative environment and direct influence over the presentation of their work.
When the owner of Artspoken moved to Alaska in 2007, the three stepped-up to re-organize the gallery as an artists’ cooperative, bringing additional artists on board and holding more sponsored exhibitions and juried shows. As their reputation grew, the handwriting was on the wall — crowded among the plethora of hanging paintings. Everything seemed cramped. The hunt for a larger canvas began.
Enlarging on the Idea
Valerie Walden, original manager of the co-op, summed it up this way: “The location of the old space on Koenig meant there was little drop-in traffic to the gallery. And, if too many people attended an artists’ reception, some of them had to park blocks away. The more we wanted to show off the gallery, the harder it became.
That led us to consider larger spaces with sufficient parking capacity and the opportunity to catch the eye of a wider clientele. That’s a tough set of criteria for traditional art gallery areas like downtown or the eastside. So, we stayed north and went into a decidedly untraditional retail space, and doubled our size to 1,250 square feet. We had more room to paint, more room to show and more room for art patrons.”
Staying True to the Concept
Jan Knox, one of the founding members especially liked the collaborative, cooperative nature of having several artists working in proximity to each other. She noted, “Having talented people around that see things differently can be energizing for your own work. It’s motivating and validating at the same time.” Jan invited two of her colleagues from an informal painting group to join the new gallery and take space in the studios.
Rebecca Bennett, another founder, saw the greatly expanded gallery space as a distinct advantage. She observed, “We have so much more room to present the work of our artists-in-residence. And, the ceiling is 15 feet instead of 8 feet, which is important when you do large pieces like some of mine. Now, when we rent out the gallery section for a sponsored exhibit, the presenting artist can hang a massive amount of work that can be comfortably viewed without feeling jammed or cluttered.