You’ve seen it time and time again, either cruising by on bike or stuck in traffic on Cesar Chavez. You’ve noticed it’s a table, admired those distinct lamps. But you’ve also probably wondered what it is exactly, and how it came to be. Nestled between the train tracks and the Seaholm Power Plant, the aptly titled Open Room Austin is a public art installation by Rosario Marquardt and Roberto Behar. The over-sized, open-air picnic table is made entirely of almuninum and features a lace-like “tablecloth”, benches to seat 24, and four tree-like lampposts. Conceived as a social sculpture, it encourages a shared community experience in an unexpected setting, and as AIPP says, is “intended to dissolve boundaries between fiction and reality and limits between art and life.” The piece is first come, first serve and currently awaits its next sitter. serve, currently awaiting its next sitter.
We at aether decided to take advantage of this unique meeting place and host a dinner party for members of the Austin art community. What better use of public art than to gather and commune over a meal? The night was one of a kind, magical even, and the setting ensured an incomparable experience.
Open Room Austin certainly proves to be an inspiring and successful project. Luckily, there are many more public art projects on the horizon. The following pages take a look at how we used the space, what our guests thought of the experience, and what’s next in the public art sphere.
Public art is one of the elements that makes this city come alive. For those of us from smaller towns in Texas where public art isn’t high on the agenda, driving past a funky art installation or a sculpture that we weren’t at all expecting is a brief reminder that life here is more than routine. Public art reminds us that life isn’t just ticking off boxes of errands that have to be completed, that we have something to give one another that’s vibrant and reflective.
-CLAY SMITH, Kirkus Reviews
I think Open Room Austin can be filed under “making something ordinary, extraordinary.” It’s a somewhat simple idea, yet with more complex implications. What should public art be if not a meeting place? I like the aspect that you may have to eat or “commune” with someone else. Food and communion are important aspects of faith. (Jewish Feast of Passover, Christian Last Supper/Eucharist, etc.) This city loves being outdoors, loves food, and it combines the two. There’s also this social relevance—sharing meals, food, nutrition with your tribe.
– ERIN KEEVER, writer
This public art space helps define Austin’s unique ability to bridge together art with everyday life. The incredible setting was only surpassed by the inspiring group of individuals that made it happen.
-LISA ROGERS, R SQUARED Art Management
In our new landscape of fast cash, fast food, and even faster downloads, installations like Open Room are encouraging us to sloooow down! At this generous table you can share a meal, catch up with friends or make new ones, watch the sun set, or even the sun rise. It’s not al fresco dining, it’s al fresco art.
– CATHERINE ZINSER, Blanton Museum