There’s no shortage of festivals in the world, that’s for sure. They come in all shapes and sizes, cater to all forms of counter-cultures, interests, hobbies, obsessions, niches. Being a fan of revelry in all its aspects, I enjoy them all–whether we’re talkin’ the occasional straight up comic book convention or music festival. If it’s fun I’m down. My sister Yaya, however, is a stone cold Type A personality. This could be attributed to her age, a mere ten years, and thus her lack of life experience. An Art Outside ticket fell into my lap this weekend. Propelled by the desire to give her a good weekend and wanting to expand her world outside of upper-middle-class suburbia’s public school system, I kidnapped her for a day. She, bored of the usual weekend activities, was more than happy to accompany.
One fantastic element of Art Outside is that children under the age of 12 get in free. Neither of us being a fan of spending money (this kid has hundreds of dollars hoarded in her piggy bank, what kid does that??), this suited us just fine. The following is an embellished summary of the festival from her perspective:
“When Neda asked me to go to this festival I had a totally different idea in my head. First of all it wasn’t even in Austin like I thought it would be, and she had to GPS a bunch of back roads. She said “We’re going to bumtruck Rockdale, wherever that is.” That’s not what she really said, but she curses a lot and I don’t want to repeat her language. The festival was at a place called Apache Pass. We passed by a bunch of farms and cows and corn fields on the way. It was a pretty drive and it was a beautiful day. When she parked I thought we were at the wrong place because all I saw was farmland, but then she grabbed my hand and led me down a dirt hill and I saw a bunch of tents and people sitting in big trucks or under trees. The first thing that stuck out to me was that the women weren’t wearing shirts. I was wearing a sparkly pink T-shirt and my favorite jean shorts and my hair was in a bun, but most of the people at the festival were wearing swimsuits and lots of colors and had cool but weird haircuts or dreadlocks like that time I went on a cruise to Jamaica with my parents. One lady was wearing a beautiful pink gown and she looked like she was a character from Pride and Prejudice. Some men were wearing tutus like from my dance recitals. Actually a lot of men were wearing women’s clothes. At my school the boys wear boy clothes so that was the first time I saw men in women’s clothes.
My sister said it was an art festival, so I was expecting like a lot of art galleries and stuff, and also booths of expensive food like when mama and daddy take me to the fair. I was expecting funnel cake and corn on the cob, but I didn’t see any of that. There were tents with cool artwork hung up, and next to one of the tents were interesting metal sculptures made of what my sister called “found objects” set up in a circle, kind of like a sculpture park. They were intricate and incredible. I asked my sister why there wasn’t as much art work as I thought there would be and she explained that art isn’t necessarily paintings on canvas. She said art could be performances, or music, or poetry, or photography, or film, or whatever. So now I’m just confused about what art is, because apparently it can be anything. Then, I guess to prove her point, she took me to a small stage that had a banner on it that read “999 Eyes Freakshow & Surreal Sideshow.” We sat down in the grass, where a lot of people were sitting. Everyone seemed to be relaxing, sitting on blankets and enjoying the gorgeous weather. The show was not like anything I had ever seen before! I WATCHED A MAN SWALLOW SWORDS. I watched a guy with only three fingers on one hand play the violin! It was crazy and everyone in the show was super weird in a good way and very nice.
After that show was over, I asked her what the plan was. She didn’t seem to have one, which is pretty annoying because I’m the kind of person who likes to have a schedule. But she just likes to do whatever whenever. We wandered around, and then we rode a tandem bike around. There was an area near the center of the camp which had a ton of crazy bikes that people could ride if they wanted. We saw an awesome tricycle that had a huge bat attached to it, and when people would pedal the batwings would flap like it was flying. Kids were running up to it and hitching rides. There were actually a lot of kids there. Some were younger than me, a lot were around the same age. I don’t think any of them were wearing shirts. The whole festival felt more like a community.
We mostly wandered around and visited any cool stuff we saw. There were a bunch of booths selling beautiful hand-made art and jewelry, clothes, glass art. We passed by people doing yoga in the center camp, I think it was a workshop. At one point I smelled something weird and said, “ew, I think there’s a skunk here.” My sister laughed but I’m not really sure what was so funny.
I think the event was winding down when we went. We attended on a Sunday morning and stayed all day. People were packing up their tents and belongings and getting ready to leave, but there was still a lot to do and see and everyone was super friendly. We stopped by a stage where a man was singing with his guitar. In front of the stage were persian carpets and rugs and lawn furniture, and people were laying around reading books or staring at the clouds or just listening. It seemed like everyone was just having a relaxing Sunday, and you could tell they were tired from the weekend. The back of the stage had huge wood carved panels with screens behind them, and when the sun was shining through it illuminated the guy on stage and the audience with amazing lights and patterns.
We also caught some bands. Ahmed Garcia and Muse Oasis played middle eastern music, but it didn’t sound like the Arabic music my mom listened to at home or what plays at our family weddings. The music was led by an electric guitar and it made for a very interesting comparison to the more traditional drum sounds. There were bely dancers performing to. Next we saw Henry + the Invisibles, who is just one man who plays a bunch of instruments and records them together live to make funk music. People were hula hooping and dancing and spinning things that my sister called “poi.” It was there that I saw a lot of women not even wearing bras while they were dancing. Their boobs were just bouncing around while they danced. I guess it was the first time I saw boobs that weren’t my mom’s or my sisters’.
Afterwards my sister took me to Waffle House. It was a good day. Everyone I talked to was nice and everything I saw was interesting.”
Thus concludes my sister’s experience. While I am somewhat saddened that I didn’t take her on Saturday, when the festival was at its height and the performances were truly kicking, I’m also certain it would have overwhelmed her sheltered little-kid brain. First time exposure to crossdressing and partial-nudity were good first steps towards expanding her horizon. They may not be the norm of society, but the reality of the world is that there’s more to life than manicured lawns and structured 9-5 days. The world is a diverse place of people, cultures, genders, music, art, environments–and that is exactly what Art Outside is here to celebrate. Definitely a small, lesser-known festival of the Austin(ish) area, it is also one which is incredibly worthwhile, if only to remind us that life isn’t always a routine.