Austinites can map their emotions as part of WEST art exhibit

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A public art project that asks Austinites to map their emotions will be featured as part of the West Austin Studio Tour, or WEST, a free two-weekend, multi-location art show that starts May 9.

Austin-based artist Jennifer Chenoweth is inviting WEST attendees to place pins on a life-size map of Austin where a meaningful experience occurred, whether it be positive or negative. Her interactive art piece called XYZ Atlas will be featured in Hyde Park on the north field of the Elizabet Ney Museum, which named Chenoweth its first visual artist-in-residence, she said.

“People get to use it as a visual diary of the places that make Austin feel like home,” Chenoweth said. “It’s a really fun way to get them to reflect on their lives and their attachment to Austin.”

Chenoweth first hatched the idea for the project back in 1999, she said, and it has grown steadily ever since, with a first incarnation debuting in 2013 at CoLab Projects in East Austin. Participation for that first run was small, Chenoweth admits, but it did reveal how positively people revere Barton Springs Creek—and how much they loathe I-35, she said.

Participants answer a 20-question survey, either in person or online, with questions ranging from “Where have you laughed the hardest?” to “Where did you act like a jackass?” Online participants can also submit photos or videos and share it as part of their submission, said Chenoweth, who wants the project to appeal to art enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.

“As an artist, I’m always looking for ways to use art to engage people and make it fun and interesting,” she said.

All answers are mapped and given a color based on positive or negative emotions, Chenoweth said, and the end result—a topographic-looking map—will debut at Zilker Park next May as part of a public art project sponsored by the city. WEST attendees can participate in person May 9-10 or answer the online survey through December, she said.

In addition, Chenoweth will present at Ney Museum during the second weekend of WEST on May 16-17, showcasing a giant 3D sculpture inspired by the XYZ Atlas project, she said. There will also be a large art show as part of the third annual Ney Day, which takes place from noon to 5 p.m. May 16.

WEST this year features nearly 300 artists at 180 exhibitions throughout the city. The fourth annual self-guided tour is presented by Big Medium, the same Austin nonprofit that hosts the East Austin Studio Tour, or EAST.
By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.


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