The Blanton Museum - Soundspace

I love this work soooooo much. This wonderful neon sculpture was created by Taveres Strachan. His other awesome works can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TavaresStrachan/

I love this work soooooo much. This wonderful neon sculpture was created by Taveres Strachan. His other awesome works can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TavaresStrachan/

So well-behaved

So well-behaved

I had the privilege of working with The Blanton Museum to take photos of their AWESOME event, SoundSpace: Refugees. The event featured "works written by, performed by, or depicting the experience of refugees. These performances occur throughout the museum in galleries featuring art that touch on refugee themes." It was just gorgeous. People were wonderful, so much diversity in ages and people, and beautiful art in motion and sound on display.

For those that haven't been to The Blanton, it is this succulent jewel of a building on the fringes of the University of Texas at Austin's campus. After you pass through the arches that border the outside entry way, you proceed past the ticket desk (after buying your ticket, duh), and then you're enveloped by this spectacular main hall (you can see it in the background behind my two well-behaved kids). The tile is this rich, marbelized turquoise that reminds me of a flattened bowling ball. And above you hangs a massive ceramic chandelier that looks like a mixture of human organs, plants, and intestines (picture below). My description makes it sound awful and I'm not doing the Blanton or the artist any favors, but I promise it comes from a place of awe and happiness. It's spectacular!

One of the spectacular dancers with a full choir in the background

One of the spectacular dancers with a full choir in the background

So, imagine this exceptional space (so poorly described above) filled with all the vibrancy of artists, musicians, dancers, and singers who are posted-up throughout the Blanton's rooms with their performances bringing static art to life. If there's a better, more child-friendly way of getting kids and families into fine art museums I'd love to hear about it! You can find all of the Blanton's upcoming events here.

Brent Baldwin performing with the backing of a full choir

Brent Baldwin performing with the backing of a full choir

SoundSpace: Refugees is just one performance in a series that The Blanton puts on every couple months. The next SoundSpace event is happening in just two weeks (September September 24, 2017) reflecting on the life of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitanda. I'll be there with my kids taking photos, so if you see us definitely say "hi"!

Enjoy!

Cotton Bowl Speedway

Cotton Bowl Speedway from the sky. You can see the pit in the top-right (which is absolutely amazing), the race support crew can be found in the middle of the track, and you can see the main grand stands and concession stand to the center-right.

Cotton Bowl Speedway from the sky. You can see the pit in the top-right (which is absolutely amazing), the race support crew can be found in the middle of the track, and you can see the main grand stands and concession stand to the center-right.

It's important for me to be clear right from the first paragraph: I understand very, very little about dirt track racing. Like, I get that there's a winner and multiple losers. I get that there are different classes of cars, and that there are different skill-levels of drivers. But, beyond that, I don't understand why there are multiple races in the same night. I don't understand how points are measured. I don't get why some tires are best for dry dirt versus wet dirt, or how one track is different from another. So, please, don't hold me accountable for anything said below that offends your far greater knowledge of the sport, but feel free to comment and help me understand this badass sport more! This blog post is an extend photo appreciation of the amazing sprint cars, drivers, and spectators on display.

 

In the way that most people who live in or near the country go to sleep in the summer to the sound of cicadas, growing-up in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday nights in the summer we would try (unsucessfully) to go to sleep to the sound of sprint cars racing the Bloomington Speedway.  Our home was close-enough to the track that the engine noises came through our closed windows giving the sense that the races were in our back yard. I didn't necessarily "like" the speedway and I definitely didn't appreciate it. Just as browning leaves indicate the coming fall, in our household summertime officially began when the races shook our windows.

Profile view of spectators watching from the stands

Profile view of spectators watching from the stands

It was only when I got to college that I realized how awesome Bloomington Speedway was. It was when a couple friends and I went and hung out in the Bloomington Speedway parking lot and waited long-enough until admission was free and we could walk in.

It took a while to understand but it became clear that getting a race car to the track was a family and friend affair. It's this beautiful weekend warrior pursuit for a lot of older drivers, and for the younger drivers it often seems to be a rite of passage. Cars regularly trade hands between drivers and families. For some, car racing is just the next step after dirt bike racing. Tires and fuel are bought and traded in the pit.  Repairs, engine rebuilds, welding, everything is handled in the pit between sprints. And, almost all expenses are covered out of pocket. It's truly a labor of love.

Cotton Bowl Speedway stands as seen from a drone

Cotton Bowl Speedway stands as seen from a drone

After a bit of research I found this fantastic dirt track that has racing nearly all summer long and it's just an hour east of Austin. It's a magical little race track in Paige, Texas, called Cotton Bowl Speedway. My love of racing that was sparked in college 12 years ago was instantly rekindled in just the first couple of moments at the track when the engine noises made my heart vibrate and dirt got kicked up into my contacts.

I just love it and I love being around it. Even on the sidelines, 50 yards away from the track, you can feel the engine noises in your chest. You get hit by dirt and it messes-up your contact lenses (and your camera lenses). If you purchase the "Pit Pass" you even get to see all the last-minute repairs up close. You see kids pumping gas and rolling tires, drivers joking with other drivers about putting a screwdriver into their tires, and drivers getting a hot dog before their next race.

It's just magic and I couldn't recommend a trip to the Cotton Bowl Speedway more!

I'm also available for hire. Just fill out my contact form and we will kick off the process!

If you are an awesome non-profit or company doing good in and for the Central Texas area I’m eager to work with you! Head over to the contact page and let’s get something started!


Montessori For All Groundbreaking

Magnolia Montessori For All from above when it was just a cleared plot of land

Magnolia Montessori For All from above when it was just a cleared plot of land

Many of you are aware that my wife, Sara Cotner, with several other awesome folks, like Sarah Kirby Tepera, started Austin’s first public Montessori School, Magnolia Montessori For All (MFA). There are over 20 Montessori schools in Austin and MFA is the only one (until this year) serving students that isn’t private (meaning the only one that does not cost anything for students in grades kindergarten and up). 

Sarah Kirby Tepera and Sara Cotner before the groundbreaking ceremony

Sarah Kirby Tepera and Sara Cotner before the groundbreaking ceremony

Two students carefully carry their groundbreaking shovels

Two students carefully carry their groundbreaking shovels

Since MFA began three years ago the classrooms have been in portable buildings on their nine acre campus. While portables do the trick, they aren’t an elegant or long-term solution. They also aren’t what students deserve. Charter schools are unique in that, though they are public, in Texas they only receive per pupil funding, which does not cover any operations or building expenses. This means that any building (temporary or permanent) need to be maintained and built using a charter school's per-pupil funding or the money needs to be fundraised.

Amazingly, because of the awesome, awesome parents and donors of Magnolia Montessori For All, MFA will be opening up their first permanent classrooms TODAY. These classrooms will be serving grades PK3 through kindergarten and construction for classrooms serving grades 1 through 6 will begin immediately and will wrap-up in January.

These kids are just incredible. Everything about this picture makes me smile.

These kids are just incredible. Everything about this picture makes me smile.

Six months ago MFA broke ground on these grade PK3 through Kindergarten classrooms and I was on-hand to take pictures. 

Congratulations, my love. And, thank you to all the parents and foundations that put their trust and their money in this incredible project. As a husband to the founder, I know that things aren’t always perfect but that lack of perfection is never due to lack of trying or care. I can’t wait to watch what happens next!

I’ll be posting a follow-up to this blog post with footage from the completed buildings.


I'm also available for hire. Just fill out my contact form and we will kick off the process!

If you are an awesome non-profit or company doing good in and for the Central Texas area I’m eager to work with you! Head over to the contact page and let’s get something started!

HAAM - Corporate Battle of the Bands

One of HAAM's awesome bands waiting for the judges to announce their score 

One of HAAM's awesome bands waiting for the judges to announce their score 

HAAM stands for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. It’s a fantastic organization that provides access to affordable health care services to support Austin's low-income and uninsured musicians. HAAM’s services fill a large hole that affects Austin’s creative residents due to a number of factors like Austin’s gentrification, rising rents and costs of living.

Each year HAAM throws a fundraiser called Corporate Battle of the Bands that raises money for programming, staffing, and health care services. I had wanted to volunteer photography for them for a while and this awesome event was the perfect time to do it!

Couple dancing the two-step

Couple dancing the two-step

Bands are made up of employees from different companies around Austin who practice for hours and hours to perform original pieces and covers in front of a packed house at the ACL Live Moody Theater. The bands are then judged by several prominent music folks from the Austin area. This year, the judges were Omar Vallejo (bass player in the band Vallejo and founder of 512 Studios), Graham Wilkinson (local musician), and James Minor (head of the SXSW festival). The event also has super cool, music-related items that are auctioned off, e.g. ACL tickets and signed guitars.

When taking these photos I wanted to focus on the chemistry between band mates, the enthusiasm that these musicians had with each other, and the beautiful lighting that performing under the Moody Theater’s lights afforded. I also wanted to try and get intimate shots of the audience and judges reacting to the artists.

I’m really happy with the results. It's incredibly important to be reminded of the critical role that non-profits like HAAM play in our community, filling-in the gaps that are left by a healthcare system that isn’t affordable and doesn’t cover all people. I can’t wait to work with HAAM on future events!

James Minor (music manager for South by Southwest) discussing a band's performance with the other judges

James Minor (music manager for South by Southwest) discussing a band's performance with the other judges


All photos in this blog post are available as prints. Just fill out the print request form and we will work together to get one created to fit your space and needs!

I'm also available for hire. Just fill out my contact form and we will kick off the process!

If you are an awesome non-profit or company doing good in and for the Central Texas area I’m eager to work with you! Head over to the contact page and let’s get something started!