HOPE Outdoor Gallery- Graffiti Park
Backstory and Context
HOPE Outdoor Gallery, also known as Graffiti Park, is a free public paint park in downtown Austin, Texas.1 The park, which was recently closed for relocation from Baylor St. to Carson Creek Ranch, consisted of three stories of concrete walls filled with street art. Downtown Austin is home to a large amount of street art, and Graffiti Park was set up initially as a space for commissioned artists, and eventually for all to leave their mark. This haven for street art became popular after its official launch in 2011, with hundreds of people coming daily to view the existing walls or leave something of their own. HOPE Outdoor Gallery has exposed the public to more art and has brought the people of Austin together, representing Austin’s playful side and becoming a famous icon to both tourists and locals in Austin.
While the walls in Graffiti Park are adorned with graffiti today, they were not set up for that purpose. The site of this graffiti on Baylor Street was originally the walls of a failed condo development from the 1980s, which was demolished in the 1990s.2 Soon after, artists tagged and sprayed the walls at that site, known as “The Foundation.”3 Covered in weeds and garbage, “The Foundation” was not a friendly space, but HOPE Campaign founder Andi Scull Cheatham saw potential in the abandoned lot in 2011 and decided to reclaim it.4 In Austin, unauthorized graffiti can result in a class B or C misdemeanor, or even prison sentences, but Graffiti Park allowed people to make art without worry of consequences.5
HOPE began as a campaign to raise awareness about the Darfur genocide, but broadened its cause to “connect creatives with causes through projects and events.”6 After seeing potential in “The Foundation” to provide space for artists to “donate their talents to causes they’re passionate about,” Scull Cheatham approached the property owners, Vic Ayad and Dick Clark, who allowed her to use their property for one year.7 The site officially launched as HOPE Outdoor Gallery in 2011 at South by Southwest, a conference for film, interactive media, and music. This dense gallery started off with commissioned work, but became less curated as more street artists showed up. Due to its publicity and success, the project lasted for eight years at the Baylor Street location, the property bankrolled by Ayad for that duration, welcoming fifty to two hundred visitors an hour.8
Over time, the number of visitors and crowded wall-space overran the space’s purpose to provide an area for artists. Realizing this, Cheatham and Ayad accepted an offer in 2017 to move the gallery to Carson Creek Ranch, and they announced the Baylor St. location’s closing on January 2, 2019. In keeping with HOPE’s cause, the new location, set to open in the summer of 2019, promises a bigger facility to provide professional wall space, event space, art classes, and public practice walls.9
HOPE Outdoor Gallery became a landmark in Austin that has nurtured the creativity of the growing city. In the bustling downtown, the Gallery was a hub for artistic exposure and viewing, and became a place where any artist could paint freely. While the Gallery is no longer open on Baylor St., nothing can erase the spirit of Austin imagined on the graffitied walls until the new location at Carson Creek Ranch opens.
2Rachel Cooper, “Austin’s Iconic Graffiti Park Closes As A New Canvas Is Prepped Near The Airport,” KUT, last modified January 2, 2019, http://www.kut.org/post/austins-iconic-graffiti-park-closes-new-canvas-prepped-near-airport.
3 Bob Makela, “How a Concrete Wasteland has Become a Street-art Wonderland Called the HOPE Outdoor Gallery,” The Austin Chronicle, last modified June 20, 2014, https://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2014-06-20/hog-wild/.
4 Makela, “How a Concrete Wasteland has Become a Street-art Wonderland Called the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.”
5 “Penal Code Title 7. Offenses Against Property,” Texas Constitution and Statutes, accessed February 21, 2019, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.28.htm.
7 Bob Makela, “How a Concrete Wasteland has Become a Street-art Wonderland Called the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.”
9 Kate Groetzinger, “Austin Street Art Enters Into a New Era.”