“Keep Austin Weird,” the city’s inhabitants have been saying since 2000, when a community college librarian coined the phrase to explain his donation to local public radio.

Being weird ourselves, we are in no position to judge how well the phrase expresses Austin’s unique identity. All we know is, when we visit Austin, we fit in like a bat in downtown.

That’s why we’re delighted to share this roundup of amazing local artists, as well as places they’ve helped create.

Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art has been building an amazing collection since 1963, but recently, it has seen exciting new developments. In 2018, Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, which resembles a minimalist cathedral, opened on the grounds. In May 2023, the grounds were further decorated with one dozen 40-foot-tall flower-like structures by the architectural firm Snøhetta. In July 2023, Claudia Zapata, Ph.D., began working for the museum in the newly created position of Associate Curator of Latino Art. Zapata’s first exhibition for Blanton, Unbreakable, will be on display from September 16, 2023, until March 31, 2024.

Darla Teagarden, Photographer

After working as a stylist, make-up artist, cabaret dancer, and production designer, Darla Teagarden became a photographer in 2007. Examples of her surreal, macabre, yet strangely beautiful work include Sweet Nell and the Dervish Tree and Genesis. When Teagarden was interviewed by The Austin Chronicle upon the publication of her first book, Altars (2022), she explained, “I take the beauty in occultism, witchcraft, bygone eras, Georges Méliès, and all that’s filtered through my eyes.” If you review the work of Georges Méliès (1861-1938), you will immediately recognize the affinity between the early filmmaker and the contemporary Austin photographer.

Oscar Cásares, Writer

Oscar Cásares, who teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, has published three books about life on the U.S.-Mexico border. His short story collection, Brownsville (2003), paints a vivid image of his hometown. In Amigoland: A Novel (2009), an elderly man breaks his brother out of a nursing home so that the siblings might solve a family mystery. In Where We Come From (2019), a Brownsville woman cares for her godson while trying to hide an undocumented immigrant. A reviewer for Texas Observer recommended this novel as an insightful, gut-wrenching study of complex tragedies at the border.

Esther’s Follies, Comedy Troupe

Since 1977, Esther’s Follies has put on variety shows including song, dance, political satire, and magic tricks. Fans call it “Austin’s answer to Saturday Night Live.” Resourcefully, the comedy troupe learned to make video content during the pandemic so that they could uplift audiences while earning money via Patreon. In an “American Pie” parody, the cast gathered online, singing, “The town is closed; that’s just how it goes, / As I count how many pencils I can fit in my nose.” The performers shared other lockdown experiences upon their return to live shows. Austin is lucky to have them back!

Austin Film Society

The Austin Film Society (AFS) was founded in 1985 by native Texan Richard Linklater, writer and director of Dazed and Confused (1993), who serves as a Board Member and Artistic Director. Linklater’s most celebrated film, Boyhood, brought him Academy Award® nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay in 2015. The AFS screens both new and old films, offers classes for aspiring filmmakers, collaborates with the city government to provide rental studio space, and gives grants to indie productions. Check out recent grant recipients to see what films may be coming out of Texas next!

Daniel Fears, R&B Musician

As Daniel Fears explained when he was featured as an Artist of the Month on KUTX, he grew up listening to Christian music, studied classical music at the University of Texas and Yale, but ultimately became a composer and performer of R&B. His first single, “No Substitutions,” was followed by an EP, Canopy, in 2020. Since then, Fears has recorded four singles, the latest of which is “Enough,” released in October 2023. If you want to admire Fears’ music, as well as his expressive voice, we recommend this NPR Tiny Desk Concert, where Fears and his friends performed “Keep On.”

Terry Black’s Barbecue

We don’t know which is more delicious: the food at Terry Black’s Barbecue, or the drama behind the family business. You see, Edgar Black, Sr., started Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart back in 1932. He passed the restaurant on to Edgar Black, Jr., who was expected to pass it on to his son Terry. But one day, when Edgar Black, Jr. was sick, Terry was fired over fax. His brother, Kent, took over the whole shebang, so Terry opened a restaurant in Austin. Going on ten years now, the two sides of the family been fightin’. We reckon the feud may never stop, but the barbecue tastes damn good.

Caramelo Haze, Latin Neo-Soul Band         

The members of this innovative band are Grammy® winners Beto Martínez and John Speice, ethnomusicologist Alex E. Chávez, and accomplished drummer Víctor-Andrés Cruz. During 2020, they formed a pandemic pod, retreating to Buda, southwest of Austin, where they began working on their album, NOESTÁSAQUÍ (2022). We feel transported to an enchanting Caribbean future while listening to Caramelo Haze’s fusion of genres. Joined by César Valencia on bass, the band performed three of their songs on KUTX in July 2022. More recently, the same local radio station featured Caramelo Haze – as well as Daniel Fears, described above – among “seven must-see artists at SXSW 2023.”

That’s our roundup!

We’ll be back soon with another. Right now, the sun is coming up, so it’s time for us to hang upside down under Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge.

Until next time, find some creativity wherever you can. Stay safe, and be well. #StandCreative