Culture + Style

Like Your Art Weird? Austin is Calling

There is no shortage of things to do in Austin. Turning your body into a work of art is one option. (Photo: Prisma Bildagentur AG / Alamy)

Austinites aren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly. The mantra “Keep Austin Weird” says it all. Originally created to promote local businesses and start-ups, the city’s motto applies to everything from tacos for breakfast to slightly off kilter art and cultural attractions.

Where Abnormal Art Lives

Proof that Austinites gravitate toward the unusual? Exhibit A — the HOPE Open Gallery. This Austin art gallery features three stories of culturally relevant street art by local talent that aims to not only shift how you see art, but deliver a socially conscious message, too . HOPE’s mission is “connecting creatives with causes,” which they accomplish through volunteer artists who use their work to inspire change worldwide.

Less than three miles from the gallery stands Roadhouse Relics, where Todd Sanders’ vintage-style sculptures evoke vibes of deserted attractions along Route 66. This could be something from the pages of “The Grapes of Wrath.” Sanders weaves neon lights and weathered metal into signs portraying everything from a jar of fireflies to classic cars and motorcycles.

Not offbeat enough? Try exploring the oddities at Casa De Los Muertos. This tattoo parlor and head shop covered in Day of the Dead-themed graffiti is also a vendor of locally crafted blown-glass pipes and artworks. If you’re feeling especially spontaneous, why not turn your body into a work of art and get inked while you’re here.

SEE ALSO: Why Austin Owns the Title ‘Live Music Capital of the World’

Keep heading south along South Congress Avenue and you might notice something strange: a giant pile of junk peeking over the roofs of a quiet neighborhood. As you approach, you realize it isn’t just junk. It’s some of Austin’s finest art, and it’s not a pile. There’s a method to this madness. Vince Hannemann’s backyard takes to heart the call to keep the city weird. In this Cathedral of Junk, the rusted and broken find a home. True, “home” might be the pyramid of televisions, but it’s still a home.

Play Along With Twisted Theater

Maybe performance art is your thing. Austin has its own unique spin on that, too. Sit for a while by the Congress Avenue Bridge and watch more than one million Mexican free-tailed bats fly in hordes across the sky at sunset while you sip a locally brewed beer.

Why see another rendition of “The Lion King” when you could watch the comedians of Master Pancake mock Hollywood’s (not so) great productions along the lines of “Mystery Science Theater 3000?”

At The Ritz movie house, the comedy troupe does voice-over commentary to wonderfully awful films and cult classics such as “The Breakfast Club.” Once in a while, the guests get to pick the film, and the actors perform their comedy unrehearsed.

When you leave the 6th Street theater after the show, don’t go back to your hotel yet.

Things to do in Austin include listening to the live bands playing on “Dirty 6th.” There’s something for every taste on any given night, from honky-tonk and Tejano to the unique style of street performers like J Ray and his sidekick, Boxman 3000.