About Art and Design in Austin
Music festivals, tech conferences, government protests, environmental activists, the culture of Austin is all about getting amped up and then chilling out.
Contrary to popular belief art and culture in Austin is not just relegated to live music and street murals. The Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, and the Austin Symphony provide high quality fine arts performances, and the community continues to support art tours, events, and gallery spaces around town.
Texans don't speed in their cars all that much, and when they do, they're often accused of "being from California" or even worse. If you rent a car in Austin, be sure to chill out, let other merge in front of you, and wave to other drivers when they let you into their lane on the highway.
Also, it's considered incredibly rude to interface with a cashier, waiter, or other service staff while also talking on your cellphone.
Austin's history is long and colored, starting with the Native Americas who arrived here not long after the end of the last ice age. In fact, most of Austin's early history--the first four of the six flags--stems in part from the dominant European powers failure to thrive in an environment populated with powerful horseback warriors. When Texas won its independence, the Mexicans had an increased buffer between their own settlements and the powerful Comanche tribes as a consolation prize.
Austin was on the very edge of the frontier when Stephen F. Austin negotiated a treaty with the Native Americans that protected the residents of a small village on the Colorado River that he had helped settle. The city was renamed Austin in honor of his work settling the city, and it became the capital of the Republic of Texas in 1839 under President Mirabeau B. Lamar, who moved it from Houston. This was the beginning of the competitive relationship between Austin and Houston that still exists today.
Eventually, the threat of the Comanches dissolved as they succumbed to disease, the destruction of the buffalo, and the outright aggression and murder by the Texas Rangers. The United States annexed Texas, and after Civil War Reconstruction, Austin became a safer, more stable place to live and began to develop the characteristics of independence, democracy, and creativity that still run today.
Politics & Economy
While Texas runs blue, it is the seat of government for a deeply red state, which leads to an environment rife with contradictions. While the Austin City Council bans single-use bags, implements single-stream recycling, and pioneers public transit plans, it has to operate within a state government that offers little support for progressive initiatives.
Perhaps the creativity needed to make the city run is what keep the unemployment rate low during the Great Recession. In fact, Austin's growth barely slowed during the most recent economic downturn, with unemployment topping out at 6.9 percent in January of 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this is most likely due to the stable job providers of the state government and University of Texas, private sector employers like Dell, IBM, Freescale Semiconductors, and a slew of tech companies continued to move to Austin and add jobs.
Wes Anderson, Lance Armstrong, Drew Brees, Sandra Bullock, Ciara, Walter Cronkite, Michael Dell, Kinky Friedman, Richard Garriot, Patty Griffin, O. Henry, Janis Joplin, Barbara Jordan, Mike Judge, Alex Jones, Richard Linklater, Natalie Maines, Tucker Max, Matthew McConaughey, Nelly, Willie Nelson, Elisabet Ney, Governor Ann Richards, Andy Roddick, Robert Rodrigues, Karl Rove, Louis Sachar, Charles Umlauf, Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, Old Pecan Street Festival, Austin Food and Wine Festival, Austin Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, O. Henry Pun-Off, Zilker Kite Festival
Art: Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Campus, Laguna Gloria Art Museum (with beautiful lakeside views), MexicArte, Art on 5th, Women and Their Work, Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), Umlauf Sculpture Garden, Elisabet Ney Museum
History: Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, LBJ Presidential Library
Holidays & Festivals
Austin's enthusiasm for music festivals goes back to the German folk music festivals that attracted folks from neighboring counties as early as the 1910s. Today, the Austin City Limits Festival in the fall and South by Southwest in the spring are Austin's largest music festival and music conference. In addition to these, Austin hosts Fun Fun Fun Fest, Psych Fest, and Chaos in Tejas to indie, psych, and hardcore lovers respectively.
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