Throwing a festival is akin to conjuring a tornado. If not mechanized by corporate intervention, finding the ideal combination of art and experience takes a special kind of crazy. Art Outside is certainly the latter, and the human touch was prominent throughout everything Art Seen Alliance saw fit to provide. It’s tough to describe the gathering as a music festival, or even an art festival. It’s better to think of it as a community festival, where, collectively, the intensely passionate Austin creative scene puts their best foot forward in the pursuit of building something great.
For a bit of background, Art Seen Alliance is an Austin based creative collective that truly embodies the vastness of the word creative. Mired in inspiration from the local scene, the founders sought to provide some structure around the passions of the many talented artists they were inspired by. In doing so, they formalized it into a group effort whose sum is far greater than its parts. Currently operating out of a massive warehouse, they split their space and efforts into two categories: building their production and fabrication business, and then using that momentum to act as unparalleled patrons of the arts. They host space for their artists to explore their passions and then harness those passions by offering their expertise in all manner of productions.
Art Outside is the creative culmination of these efforts. It has certainly changed forms over the last decade, but the genuine passion remains as strong as ever. Despite this, the festival is not impervious to bad luck. At 2015’s AO, after building heavy momentum with year after year of incredible events, the gathering found itself the victim of a vicious storm that cut the weekend short. It was painful for all involved, and it had the effect of sending Austin’s favorite festival into a retrospective year long hiatus. But, as seen by the successes of Art Seen Alliance over it’s many years in operation, passion demands an outlet. Leading up to this year’s event, the organization was very clear about what this was: a return to roots. Intimate, efficient, and jam-packed full of flavor, it was refreshing as hell to see what it looks like when a group knows exactly what it’s there to do: build fantastically organic connections between artists and their fans.
There are no single highlights that stand out, instead the biggest takeaway is simply that we wish we had more time at Apache Pass. The land, tucked up against an ambling river and dotted with gigantic oak trees, was filled with more diversions than you could possibly tackle in 3 days. Live music, food, painters, workshops, art galleries, installations, healing circles, performance art; you name it, it was present and executed exceptionally well. Through it all was an element of mindfulness that was positively eye opening. From the daily 9 AM yoga sessions to the sunset cacao ceremony, everywhere you stumbled was a heavy dose of healing power. The performances were absolutely outstanding, and this encompasses all manner of expression, including killer psych rock, phenomenal fire troupes, and a hair metal band featuring two Tesla coils backed by a robot drummer.
This festival is for the enthusiasts. It's for the type of people who want to learn something new after having tried everything else under the sun. Do you want to learn digeridoo? Do you want to learn how to spin fire? Do you want to have an impromptu meditation under stars with 50 new friends? How about some sound healing from world-renowned gurus? After you’ve finished with that, feel free to head over to the dome and dance your ass off with a crowd of freshly inspired travellers, young and old. Yes, the artists here are paid, but the money is very clearly an afterthought. Every DJ, band, vendor, performer, teacher, and volunteer has chosen to be involved because they know they have the opportunity to contribute to something spectacular.
Photos: Chizzum Pierce