Tourist in My Own Town. Gallery Hopping Outdoors. Graffiti Grande. Color Riots.

I was on a self assignment today. I was a tourist in my own town. I’d driven by a little stretch of North Lamar Blvd. on my way to meet someone in Clarksville for coffee when I saw a splash of color against a gray sky to my right. I turned around to see what it was, made it down a crowded side street and steered into an almost psychedelic collection of public art. I’d never seen any spontaneous art exhibit on any scale like this before. That was half a week ago but when I got up this morning and the sky was beautiful and clear I knew I should grab a camera, hop in the car and go over to document this manmade rainbow. I was not disappointed. 

I like well done graffiti. I love the transient nature of that art and I love the fact that it’s out in public being shared and devoured by a wide ranging audience. Apparently I am not alone. This is not “outlaw” art. Someone has created a temporary park called “The Hope Outdoor Gallery” and they have the full permission of the land owners. There is a “no trespass” sign that’s someone told me was up and down on a regular basis but I was also told that it was a lame defense against personal injury lawsuits. An attempt to limit liability in case someone was to slip off one of the dusty paths and plunge down forty feet onto hard concrete and rebar. 

I remember the site well. It’s right next to a part of Clarksville known as “Castle Hill” because a particularly evil real estate developer had built some sort of castle above this site before being eventually turned out by the Fed and the IRS.

The “gallery” is built on the remnants of a failed condominium project. The ruins have been there since the project was cancelled in the late 1980’s. In the interim the zoning and watershed laws changed and the land was deemed to be too steep to be “build-able.” I’m not sure if all that is true but that is the urban rumor and given the close proximity to valuable downtown real estate it does seem a plausible excuse. 

At any rate everyone is welcome to come and create and the art is….transient. Like any society there seem to be rules of honor among the graffiti eliti. The real artists don’t paint over other real artists. Everyone hates the urban family tourist who come and spray their family name over beautiful art and then shoot “selfies” before trudging off to be boors at some other well loved attraction. 

While I was wandering around the “gallery” I met some interesting people. One family had come to create with their kiddos, complete with a grocery bag full of spray paint. I met a young man who had just arrived from Columbus, Ohio and had come directly to the site to get to work on an artwork of his own and I met a guy named, Jules Aboloff, who says he has been photographically documenting the art for over three years now. He just got a gallery space next to Spider House Coffee Shop and he’d really love it if you were to drop by and look at his collection of thousands of shots. Many are on posters and also on his gallery partner’s line of T-shirts.

I love public art like this because it’s done for love and not some sort of mercantile mania. It’s about making bold visual statements and pure sharing.  Imagine if there was a series of wall like this dedicated to sharing photography and we could just drive up and apply our work to a wall. Acres of images. It might be amazing…

Everything was shot in program automation (seemed appropriate to eliminate my interpretations…) with a Panasonic GH3 and the amazing little kit lens. It hit color and tone like nothing I’ve shot with. It was/is amazing. And detail? Yeah, the files have that too.

Artist at work. 

Art in layers. And layers. And layers.

Tourism in Austin has always been a little....different.

Making good use of old ruins.

Have hipster hat, will photograph.

OMG. Are those Olympus Blues? How can it be? I was sure the camera was labeled:

Yes. The 14-42mm current kit lens is sharp at f5.6. Yes indeed.

It also does a nice job with colors and textures.

Personally love the work that incorporates gold paint. And layers. 

Inadvertent Art. 

This is Jules Aboloff. He's the man who's been documenting the giant public gallery project for three years now. He would love it if you'd go see his work at his new store next to Spider House Coffee Shop. His documentation is on t-shirts and posters....

Proceed with caution. There are no rails and some of the pathways are slippery dirt...
That's a long way down.

"Push the Art Pedal."

Tagger Tourists.

Click on the images to see them larger.... Click on your brain to see them smarter...


Anthony Bridges said...

I've been looking for an excuse to drive down to Austin from Dallas and this is it. Really cool. Plus, the Austin area has some of the best BBQ in the country. Dallas? Not so much. :)

Anonymous said...

That is some great stuff, Kirk. BTW, the "castle" above is a former military school. Here's some history:


Tom Barry

Patrick Larson said...

Kirk, great photos! Absolutely love the colors you're getting with that Panasonic. If I were not so deep into Nikon I'd make the jump. That or Olympus M-5 or M-1.

Joe Gilbert said...

Fantastic discovery! I like that hat, Daddy-O.

TeleBob said...


Me too, me too!