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Austin: Creative to the Core

Austin Rocks


Austin, the city that tops “best places to live” consistently is the 4th most congested city in the country.  Whew.  Every 25 years the populations doubles.

Why is it so popular?

Quality of life.  Great weather.  Lots of Green Space.  And at its core, it’s a Creative City.

And that’s what makes cities cool and attractive to Creative Class says Richard Florida and other observers of urban lifestyle and design.

I got to see this “creativity” first hand recently on a trip organized by Dana Friis-Hansen and Mark Holzbach of Grand Rapids, designed to show civic leaders in Grand Rapids what Austin is like and explore its challenges.

I particularly enjoyed seeing ways that Austin has exhibited it’s creative energy.




For example, we learned about an Art Walk in East Austin that started about ten years ago when a few of the artists who lived in the area (drawn by cheap rents) decided to open their studio spaces (typically where they lived as well)  to show and sell their work.

The first year they got sixty artists to participate over a two day period.  Now the event has 450 artists and is a two weekend event in November.  Another similar event has developed on the other side of town.

I loved seeing the Canopy, a large repurposed Goodwill building, turned into an Art Colony.  It houses 60 artist  studios, galleries, coffee shop and cooperative printing facility.  Not only does this make it easy for customers to shop, but the synergy of that many creative people working and creating together must be amazing.









Learning about this made me think about a grassroots project we enjoyed in Cuba.  Click here to learn about El Tanque in Havana, Cuba.

Austin has an active film industry. We toured the sound stages housed in repurposed airplane hangars, left behind when the Austin Airport moved outside of the city.


And, of course, what really puts Austin on the map is the music.  It’s logo, “Live Music Capital of the World.”  SXSW —a two week festival of music and technology—is a huge draw and probably attracts future residents.

I saw lots of Art.  On the streets. Buildings. A few people looked rather “artistic.”





The Austin City government hosts a People’s Art Exhibit every year in its spectacular building. One piece a year is purchased for the permanent collection, voted on by the people.  This little guy was one year’s choice.  





I particularly liked the digital rooster in this year’s show.



And this struck me as fun and creative.  A “talk to the lamppost”  campaign inaugurated by the city.  The idea is that you have a text conversation with the lampposts, park benches,  garbage cans and street signs.  Wonder if the responder is related to Apple’s Siri.



I didn’t get to try it but it is an interesting idea.  Personally I’d rather talk to a real person, maybe at one of the fun establishments in the 6th Street Entertainment District, but I believe programs like this are part of the special sauce that makes makes Austin so magical.


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Kati Boland
    Apr 14, 2015 Reply

    Magical indeed!!! Many thanks Kati

  2. posted by
    Hill Country Highlights | DesignDestinations
    Jan 18, 2016 Reply

    […] Austin: Creative to the Core  […]

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