• Jennifer Still

Graffiti Mecca: HOPE Outdoor Gallery

It finally happened (and only took three years), but I made a trip to visit graffiti mecca. Better late than never, right?

Austin, TX - a city in this vast state with one of the biggest personalities - is home to an artsy culture that makes for fun adventures, no matter the original intent of the trip. One of these havens for artsy aficionados, or really anyone in general, is the Graffiti Park at Castle Hill. Answering to quite a few names - HOPE Outdoor Gallery, Castle Hill Graffiti, Artists Anonymous (oh wait, maybe that's just one I'm trying to start..."That's so fetch," anyone?...Anyone?!) - the location itself is one of the most successful public arts projects in Texas. ​


The project began back in 2010 when Andi Cheatham approached the owners of the site, Castle Hill Partners, about establishing an art installation on behalf of his HOPE Campaign using the abandoned construction project as the canvas. The site itself had been initially developed in the 1980s, the project terminated, and then picked up by Castle Hill Partners. It was slated for development, the new home for the all too common condo springing up in metropolis, but stalled again in 2008 at the forceful hand of the financial crisis.

Since the site was no longer in production, the owners agreed to partner with the HOPE Campaign and Shepard Fairy to bring a temporary installation to the area. Half a decade later, the art installation is still standing with an unintelligible number of layers of paint covering its surface.

HOPE Outdoor & the Almighty Fairey


When this park opened in March 2011, HOPE Events brought in artists to fill the walls of the abandoned complex. One of these artists was Shepard Fairey.

(Cue fangirl scream)

Not only was Fairey instrumental in establishing the project, he also helped to kick-start the paste and paint covering the walls. Those of you who don't know the name or consciously know of his work, you've seen more than you might think.

Remember Andre the Giant's "OBEY" or Barack Obama's presidential campaign poster? Ever watched Exit Through the Gift Shop? (If you haven't, you should. Like. Right. Now. It's miraculous on so many levels.) All products of Shepard Fairey himself, including those initial pastes at HOPE like is shown above.


Then vs Now


Needless to say, the look of the park has drastically changed since its creation. Since artists and the common folk are permitted to contribute to the walls, the original pieces are buried under layers and layers of paint. This isn't unusual in the least. I mean, one of the reasons for establishing this site was to create a space to which the public and artists alike could contribute. Besides, the life-cycle of public art is typically short unless it is a commissioned mural on private property - even then, it still is subject to the ever persistent combination of a spray can and a little extra time.


then...


​Since I wasn't around at the fruition of such a haven, I can't attest to the glory of the OG (original graffiti? Nah?) pieces in person. Thankfully, however, Google has my back...as does HOPE's Facebook.



...now-ish


Now winding the clock forward to present day - or as present as November 2016 - the place looks much different.



I love the idea of so much history - not to mention blood, sweat, and possibly, beers - underneath all of the art. Like any work though, there are pieces I do and do not like. There are still pieces that are a bit more involved than others, while some play more towards traditional graffiti. Tags, man. Tags, everywhere. It's also interesting to see the bits and pieces sticking out from amidst the newer paint. For those who are fans of collages or Hide-and-Seek, this would be drool worthy.


The Future of HOPE...A New Hope?


With it having celebrated half a decade, will HOPE Outdoor Gallery outlast the test of time and live to see a full decade in the light? Eh, only time will tell. 

As more jobs and people flock to Austin, areas primed for development are always the golden ticket. There have been rumors circulating in the past few months claiming the group is looking for another location to host their installation, with the owners of the property looking to gain some cold hard cash in exchange for the piles of dirt and mortar. It seems so far, this has just been speculation with no concrete plans. If I'm mistaken though, feel free to educate!

For now, we'll just have to bask in the spray paint fumes, watch the layers of art continue to grow, and show off the space to those whose eyes haven't yet been blessed.



For more information about this space as well as albums upon albums of images throughout its history, visit the group's Facebook page at HOPE Outdoor Gallery.