A Reopening for Arthouse in Austin
Doors flew open, party dresses and suits went on, as Arthouse reopened on October 21st. Who was counting the 4,000 guests in three days? (There was someone standing at the door with a “clicker”). Thursday night was dedicated to artist members, who partied on the rooftop before the big donors showed. Friday nights swanky, $1,000-ticket event brought in Austins toniest. Dinner was held on the amazing rooftop, which has a lighted floor. Visitors got a sneak peak of the engaging exhibitions and architecture. Sunday was the public opening.
The building unveiling did not disappoint; everyone I spoke with was blown away by the renovation/expansion. Longtime Austinites, while looking at the re-use of turn-of-the-century infrastructure (which makes up an entire wall of the otherwise very modern second-floor gallery, coined “Sue Graze Gallery,” for the Arthouse director) reminisced about the Lerners that once stood in the new buildings very spot. Others even recalled visiting the Queen Theater.
LTL Architects made efforts, not only to combine old and new, but also to maximize exhibition space (expanding from 7,000 to 20,830 square feet). Space for art was built into even the elevator! Inlaying a screen in the hydraulic elevator allows for video installations to stream as you take a ride to the second floor, or rooftop. Currently featuring James Shams “Closed Caption” “”occasional dance parties broke-out on the ascent.
There was a lot of looking up at the ceiling to take in which building features were permanent and which, temporary. The large, movable, white wall has a double duty both to provide for those who remember building history a literal glimpse at its past – but also to conceal that for artists preferring to show their work in a white cube, as the architects explained during their tour.
The programming for the re-opening was so colorful, lively and fun that it correspondingly grabbed attention back from the building.
On Sunday, Erica Nix held a photo booth, and mask-making event in the loft area. (Pictures will be featured on Arthouses flickr page soon.) Also there was a Teen Workshop with Mequitta Ahuja in the community room. Ahujas is on display in the first floor gallery, as well. Live music performances were held on the rooftop, including Silent Diane and Whoa, Palomino, and Little Stolen Moments. Other exhibitions include video installation by Cyprien Gaillard “Cities of Gold and Mirrors,” and Jason Middlebrooks “More Art About Building and Food.”
Inhabiting the large second floor gallery with ease, Middlebrooks work aptly homages Arthouses reopening. Middlebrook, like the architects, also reused materials from the building, transforming glass and wood into several tables, simple chandeliers, and place settings. However, the ghosts on Middlebrooks guest list never arrive. Tables set, lights appropriately dimmed, and wine glasses handy. But, something is slightly askew””plates are made of old bottles, tables of old building materials, and wine glasses have a bend in their neck. One, or two glass tabletops flaunt inscriptions with Arthouses hours of operation, as the door was reused from the previous building. Old bottles and jugs were heated to glass melting point to reshape into serving dishes and plates.
Middlebrooks “Conversations at the Table” will occur periodically throughout the duration of the exhibition. Next up, Karen Morgan, owner of Blackbird Bakery will discuss gluten-free cooking on November 3rd. Also, Arthouse will hold “Community Potluck” with the artist on November 20th.
In an otherwise seamless reopening weekend, there was only one complaint: too much noise. Residents in downtown Austin complained about noise levels Thursday night, (which will subside now that the reopening festivities have passed).