Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy Downtown

Neo Jumper

Christmas is in four days, y’all.  If you want to live dangerously – you can try doing your last minute shopping online and cross your fingers that it gets shipped to you in time OR you can go to the mall and get something completely lackluster, but why risk it?

You can pick up unique gifts right here in downtown without biting your nails about when it will arrive.  One of the many benefits of shopping local.

But Amber, you say, I don’t have the time to visit a lot of unfamiliar stores, look through all their wares, and make a decision.  Never you fear – Amber is here! I’ve done a little of the heavy lifting for you, and below provided you a curated list of some cool shops and some cool stuff they’ve got so you can run in, get a special gift, and run out.

REMEMBER – Check the websites for the store hours!  If you are unsure about something, probably also a good idea to call ahead!

My list, of course, is not exhaustive – if you know of a cool downtown / downtown-adjacent shop – feel free to tell us in the comments below!

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Art in Downtown Austin – The Art-o-mat®

Art in Downtown Austin – The Art-o-mat®

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I see this quirky little machine every time I walk in Whole Foods HQ downtown to get a healthy helping of freshly made vegetable juice.  But I’m usually in too much of a hurry to pay much attention to it.  I kinda always knew what it was, just never *really* looked at it.  However, I had a few seconds the other day and I FINALLY took a closer look and was just as charmed as I always thought I would be!

It’s a vending machine for reasonably priced art ($5!)!  Yay!

art-o-mat-downtown-austin

According to their website:

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When the friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®. It was installed along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each.

The show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997. However, owner Cynthia Giles loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently. At that point, it was clear that involvement of other artists was needed if the project was going to continue. Cynthia introduced Clark to a handful of other local artists and the group Artists in Cellophane (AIC) was formed.

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These little machines are all over the nation, with four locations in Austin (they are currently in Whole Foods Global HQ on Lamar, Whole Foods @ Arbor Trails, Whole Foods in Bee Cave, and the Mercury store in the 2nd Street District – Whole Foods @ The Domain is in the works). I LOVE this concept because I think these little pieces of art make great gifts, and are a way better way to spend $5 than on a coke and a couple of candy bars or useless pieces of junk that you may get from other vending machines.

I was so intrigued that I just had to find out more.  So, I got in touch with the owner of the concept, Clark Whittington.  First off, he had only positive things to say about Austin, which is not surprising in the least.  He says that Mercury was the first venue in Austin and they’ve been there about 6 years or so – he says that Mercury has been great to work with.  Whole Foods then contacted him and has since taken the concept under their wing, which he says has taken the concept to a whole new level.

He also told me that, even though the machines are throughout the US, there are several Austin-based artists who have work in the Art-o-mats. Here’s the list of current Austin-based artists:

Deborah Abbott
Marilyn Kirk
Jon Lawrence
Donna Toutin
Gabrielle Toutin

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Clark says that the real mission of the project is to promote artists. They have about 120 machines and about 300 or so participating artists. He describes the concept as the balance of art versus commerce.

I asked him how the concept has grown over the years. How it had started from one machine in a coffee shop in Winston-Salem to 120 machines across the nation. Here’s what he said:

I don’t really contact people because when I do I get treated like I’m selling vinyl siding, so I wait until I hear from people and then go from there. We’re an art project – it’s not the best business model.  It’s really weird how art centers and museums – if I pitch someone – they just start crunching numbers.  Lots of times, businesses like Whole Foods and Mercury understand that there’s more too it than every little nickel and dime.  Art-o-mat is not pretentious – we are reaching out to everyone, everyone is invited to participate.

I just want to share this with the world – with people that do get it.  The last thing I’d want to do is expand in a way that doesn’t mesh with what we’re doing.  We have to be calculated and relaxed with how we do things.  Artists and hosts have to find us on their own.

Logistically, every machine is owned by the studio – not only to control the quality of inventory – but because, at the end of the day, this represents Clark’s livelihood. There are a few collectors that own their machine, but most are on a lease. Then the host buys art from Art-o-mat on invoice, as needed. Clark works with artists to curate and distribute the art for the machines.

Clark says they are in need of artists, especially Texas artists.  If you, or someone you know, has an interest in either hosting a machine or providing art for the machine – you can visit Art-o-mat’s contact page on their website. He seems to be pretty responsive.  Want to see some amazing samples of the type of art work in the machines? Visit their Flickr page.





It’s Open!  No Va Kitchen and Bar on Rainey Street

It’s Open! No Va Kitchen and Bar on Rainey Street

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I’ve been watching 87 Rainey for some time, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting to try No Va Kitchen and Bar since I first saw the TABC notice on the door in May 2012.

Well, it’s finally open, and I had the chance to try it last night.  Despite the name, the restaurant / bar concept is a definite go.

So many things to like!  First off, there’s a celebrity chef component (Brad Sorenson of The Next Food Network Star fame), AND he’s really friendly! Second, more FOOD on Rainey (which, as a Rainey resident, is very near and dear to my heart and stomach).  The food is tasty and not crazy expensive!

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Downtown Austin Art: The People’s Gallery at City Hall

Downtown Austin Art: The People’s Gallery at City Hall

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Downtown Austin is home to several galleries, The Contemporary Austin (formerly known as AMOA-Arthouse), Lora Reynolds Gallery at the bottom of The 360 Condos, Women & Their Work in the northern part of downtown near Cambridge Towers to name a couple.

However, one of our favorite galleries is actually one you may not hear about as often: City Hall.

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Families in Downtown Austin Condos

Families in Downtown Austin Condos

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Sometimes when I’m chatting with a peer of mine about where they’d like to live, I ask them if they would consider downtown.  A common response to that question is “Well, I have (or want to have) kids….so….” as though that’s the consideration keeping them from a condo. I guess when people think of the demographic of downtown Austin (and, I guess, downtowns in general), they think that high-rises are for singles, young couples, or empty nesters – most folks don’t feel like condo buildings are places where families do or should dwell.

Well, believe it or not, there are lots of families living in downtown Austin that are bucking the stereotype.  I’ve had the chance of over the last several months to interview a few families living in downtown Austin [Read more...]





Free Dance Classes in Downtown Austin This Weekend (Sunday)

Free Dance Classes in Downtown Austin This Weekend (Sunday)

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I’ve been taking dance and fitness classes as Ballet Austin for a while (read my review of my first class here) and I love it!  My absolute favorite class is the Cardio Blast, but I take several classes there.  And I found out the other day that they are doing an ENTIRE DAY of FREE CLASSES this Sunday, August 25, 2013!

If you are looking to spice up your workout routine, or just looking for something free and fun to do this weekend in downtown Austin – I definitely suggest checking this out.  Here are the deets:

When: Sunday, August 25, 2013, 1pm-5pm.  Schedule of classes HERE (scroll down). Each class is 40 minutes long with a 20 minute transition time between classes.

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Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

Downtown Austin Pharmacies: CVS Pharmacy Now Open on Weekends

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Probably not the most urgent of news, but I got really excited about it none-the-less.

The pharmacy at CVS on 5th street, the only pharmacy in downtown Austin proper (the now closed Live Oak Pharmacy used to the closest next best thing), is now, finally, open on weekends!

For those living in downtown Austin condos like the Austonian or the Brazos Lofts, especially…your prescription filling life just got a lot easier.

And, just to be clear, this is NOT a plug for CVS, simply a plug for convenience.





ZOMG – Topfer Theatre at ZACH Theatre Brings Austin Theatre Back to the Forefront of Austin Culture

ZOMG – Topfer Theatre at ZACH Theatre Brings Austin Theatre Back to the Forefront of Austin Culture

Be on the lookout for performance of famous balcony scenes to happen at this exterior, front-facing balcony of the theatre.  I'm also told that the balcony will actually end up being made of glass, rather than the metal pictured here.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a personal tour of ZACH Theatre’s new mainstage, The Topfer (pronounced top-fur) Theatre earlier this week.  This theatre allows ZACH to truly make the jump from a small professional theatre to premiere regional theatre by providing a new, state of the art performance facility as part of downtown Austin’s already growing culture and arts scene. Downtown Austin needs a real regional theatre, and this structure and the excitement it will bring to the theatre and arts community is a huge step in the right direction.

Per an article in the Austin Chronicle (link) – ZACH Theatre had been contemplating building a third theatre in its complex as early at 1985, when they held over some funds from that year’s bond election to help fund building a third theatre.  In 2000, the economy stalled, putting the project on hold, but,  through a kick-start of funding of $10 million through the 2006 City of Austin bond election, and then fueled by direct private donation – the project was revived in 2007.  Overall, it’s a $22 million project, and they still need to raise about $2 million for completion.

The ZACH Theatre compound falls within the Zilker Neighborhood Association, but it is easily accessible to downtown Austin condos and homes and, really, feels like a part of downtown to many. I was told the ZNA was supportive the variances Zach Scott needed to build the Topfer Theatre.

As a college Theatre Major and all around theatre nerd, I was soooooo impressed with the Topfer Theatre and Kuykendall Stage.

Some tidbits:

  1. Celebrated Austin actress Karen Kuykendall has her ashes kept under the stage, isn’t that crazy?! (What’s even crazier is that there are no “r”s in “Kuykendall”!)
  2. The Topfer Theatre has a LEED Silver Certification
  3. Over 70 new parking spots have been added to the ZACH Theatre compound
  4. 40 new trees were added to the lot, as well
  5. The AC and other mechanical components of the theatre have a separate foundation from the stage – this is to minimize any possibility of noise and rumbling during performances.
  6. The theatre’s design is taken from the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago (the house is a little narrower)
  7. The theatre house seats ~420
  8. The theatre was designed by the same architects who did The W – Andersson-Wise Architects
Now, for the good stuff – the pictures (please note that the theatre is still having final touches done to it – not fully finished yet)!

For more incredible pictures and theatre fun facts – check out Bryan Kosarek’s Gay in Austin Texas Blog.

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Interested in searching for Austin homes for sale in or near Downtown Austin?  Be sure to check out our property search to view Austin homes for sale.

Additionally, here are some condominiums in Downtown Austin that are near the theatre – to learn more about these individual buildings, visit their pages:

 





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