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Culture / Newsy

Austin’s Famed Graffiti Park to be Demolished for Condos

Will the Same Hope Live On In a New Location?

BY // 02.03.18

Austin’s famed graffiti park, HOPE Outdoor Gallery, is getting demolished. June will be the last month artists can aketheir mark on the colorful concrete slabs of the abandoned 1980s condo development on Baylor and 11th.

Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission unanimously approved the demolition of the vibrant outdoor space by an 8-0 vote. The park that morphed into a symbol of Austin is expected to be turned into a condo development.

“The HOPE Outdoor Gallery is an incredible reflection of the ideas and needs happening within our society today,” HOPE founder Andi Scull Cheatham tells PaperCity. “It’s an open air, open mic for the creative class and community to enjoy and participate in.”

While most of the existing art — layers and layers of vibrant, ever-changing graffiti — will be gone for good, the project itself is relocating. Street artists, tourists, and devoted Instagramers soon will work to keep Austin weird at 9507 Sherman Road, with new graffiti works of art. The new six-acre park, with more wall space than the original, at Carson Creek Ranch near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, is scheduled to open by the end of 2018. It will be a blank slate, waiting for artists to paint the town red or any other color they choose.

The original HOPE opened to artists in March 2011, just after a South by Southwest event. Famed street artist Shepard Fairey, mastermind behind the Barack Obama “Hope” posters, was the first to create an installation.

The castle structure from the old Texas Military Institute provided a funky backdrop for the walls of dynamic, evolving artwork. One of the paint-saturated concrete slabs will be salvaged and moved to the new Carson Creek Ranch location.

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“We have always planned to bring a Memorial Wall from the original site to the new park,” Cheatham says.

The former site will also be memorialized with extensive photo-documentation of the graffiti gallery as it stands now, for preservation at the Austin History Center. While it doesn’t meet historic city standards, the Historic Preservation Office acknowledged its community value.

Mid-City Development — the company that owns the current park site — will be responsible for the documentation of the graffiti gallery.

An Unexpected Art Icon

Interestingly, Cheatham, founder of 501(c3) nonprofit HOPE Campaign, had always planned for HOPE to have a limited shelf life. In 2010, Cheatham approached Vic Ayad, owner of the property and a principal with Castle Hill Partners, about using the space as an art installation. Together with his partner in the venture, architect Dick Clark, Ayad had planned to build condos in the space.

After their project was halted, Ayad and Clark agreed to allow artists with the HOPE Campaign to paint the concrete walls for the next six months. Artists were — and are — required to register in order to add their work to the private property.

It instantly became a local art icon, so popular that the project was reframed to last three to five years. To keep the outdoor gallery alive, Ayad bought out his partner in 2013. But the more than $75,000 per year in property taxes, holding costs and insurance added up.

Cheatham began scouting a new location in 2015. The site at Carson Creek Ranch, near the airport,  is 7.5 miles from the original HOPE.

Architects Jamie Chioco and Ben Dimmitt of Chioco Design LLC firm in Austin designed the series of walls available for painting at the new location. Creative Agency Preacher will work on the park’s rebranding, with a new campaign titled “These Walls Bring Us Together.”

The Adopt-A-Wall program allows artists, including Nate Nordstrom, to paint murals across the city on several “pop-up” walls. The first of its kind will be at Native, 807 E. 4th Street. Facing I-35, the wall will display HOPE’s relocation campaign message.

More than 300 documented artists have made their mark on HOPE Outdoor Gallery. The paint park, the only one of its kind in the United States, has attracted an average of 500 visitors per day since 2013.

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