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My existing monument is a tribute to the musical backbone of the Austin Texas culture. Austin has been known to people all over the world as the "Live Music Capitol of the World" and its reputation is easily spoken for through its thousands of musical events put on almost daily in the city. The greater metropolitan area of Austin has over 1.7 million residents. The entire city communicates through different genres of music and all Austinites connect through the love of music and the acknowledgment of the integral part it plays in the culture. Every year, hundreds of thousands visit the city to participate in several music festivals, such as Austin City Limits Festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), Essence Music Festival and Marley Fest.
The city of Austin is an eclectic mixture of art, liberalism, Mexican culture, southern tradition, tech-savvy, and music. In fact, one of Austin's mantras to promote Austin pride and small business is "Keep Austin Weird". The city of Austin is just that-exceptionally weird. The city is so weird that it in fact was the perfect place for the seeds of a music-centric culture and community to be established and to grow into a worldwide-recognized movement and subculture all of its own. The emergence of Austin being a city of live music was first recognized in the 1930s. Bars and local restaurants in the downtown area began to draw a significant amount of famous artists who would come and play their music for all the people in Central Texas who otherwise had no way of reaching a venue that could meet their music-driven demands. The city of Austin was on its way to becoming a budding metropolitan area with great job opportunities and affordable land and property. During the first quarter of the 20th century, settlers from every part of the globe began a new life in the Capitol City. After a few decades, music reflected the many different ethnic and nationality groups in the area. German influence, Mexican influence, jazz and country were the fundamental building blocks for creating a city with a musical epicenter.
Austin in the 20th century boasts some of music's greats like B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, The Clash, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. This was not only of great benefit to the artists that were visiting Austin to play their music, but the city also gained a very credible reputation due to the kind of musical acts it was attracting and the large number of tourists that would come from all over to hear a certain group. It seemed as though overnight, the city had blossomed into a live music Mecca and there was no other city in the south that could hold a candle to the movement.
It seemed fitting to me to search for a monument that best describes me and the environment I was brought up in. Surprisingly, I found some similarities in the Austin emphasis on music and the indie-centric music culture in Central Arkansas and near Memphis. When looking for my perfect monument to exemplify the essence of Austin, I had to reopen my mind to the perception an outsider would have of Austin. That perception was one of extreme amazement, appreciation, slight shock and an easy-going mentality. Exploring my monument has almost been a little bit of a re-awakening as an Austinite for myself, simply because for the greater part of the year I am removed from the culture I had lived in my whole life. It takes me a second to get back into the "weird" state-of-mind, but the infectious culture of Austin makes it easy to pick up.
When searching for my monument, I wanted to find something that entirely expressed the very essence of a city, of a culture, and of a people. I was downtown when I discovered exactly what monument I was going to research and present in my honors project. What I usually took for granted as a regular piece of public art that I am comfortable with ignoring reopened my eyes to the beauty music can bring to a city. I was on Guadalupe Street, a famous strip of road that is known to all Austinites and college students as "The Drag", when I came across a massive guitar with some Mexican influenced artwork displayed. Austin is almost entirely built upon the Mexican people and the influence they have left in all aspects of Austin life. These aspects are things such as celebration traditions, rodeos, music, words, names of buildings, streets and parks, clothing, television, and art.
I decided to choose the Guitar Town project, a series of hand-crafted giant guitar statues, as my existing monument because it is simply the all-encompassing definition of Austin, Texas. In November of 2006, Gibson Guitars implemented a project that would four designated Austin charities while bringing the talents of visual and musical artists together. The public art project provided 35 10-foot tall guitars made of fiberglass to various Austin and Texas artists. These guitars were then put on a foundation and placed in various cultural hubs of Austin. Each guitar is significantly different and has a unique characteristic of Austin to showcase.
Of the 35 different guitars, the scultures that best encapsulate Austin's essence would be Soul, MusiCapitol, Keep Austin Weird, Por Vida, and Cybertar. Soul, a tribute to the very heart of Rock 'n' Roll, is located in the Austin Museum of Art, and is characterized by its striking white glossy background and contrasting lit flame emitting the fiery word "SOUL". Visual artist Paul Beck evoked the spirit of music and Austin's welcoming attitude to music that might get a little rowdy. The passion emitted from the guitar to the viewer is felt instantly. There is an immediate comprehension of the heart that musicians put into their craft and the guitar is skillfully painted to evoke such a powerful message.
MusiCapitol, is the idealized form of what Austin music and art truly is and how meaningful it is to the people that live in its borders. The guitar is characterized by warm undertoned illustrations of the Capitol, the State Seal, and the frontier that made Texas so famous in the first place. The idea of history of the state and the role music has played in making Austin and Texas in general such a strong and culturally-rich nation is carefully exemplified in the guitar. What is almost as important as the composition of the guitar is its location. MusiCapitol is placed in front of Austin City Hall on 301 W. 2nd Street for all who pass by to enjoy. With just a second's passing on the sidewalk, a viewer gets the main emphasis of music and city-interconnectedness through the message the guitar gives. Music and the love of it is so important to the people of the city that they accredit it to being a part of the government infrastructure.
Cybertar is perhaps one of the best visual representations of Austin's fast-growing technological subculture. The surface of the statue is composed completely of microchips, motherboards, and other computer components. The message portrayed through this guitar is that Austinites are technologically sound and intuitive. Por Vida¸ pays tribute to the Mexican culture that the state of Texas was founded upon. When in the city of Austin, one is immediately immersed in Mexican-American culture and soon finds themselves entirely encompassed in the significance that the culture has on the city and its inhabitants. The guitar sports paisley designs and Mexican-style flowers on a deep black background. The art is highlighted by using traditional Mexican color schemes, such as vibrant aquas and blues along with yellow and neon pinks. Staying true to the Mexican history its stands on, this guitar shows the ethnic pride of Austin people.
Lastly, Austin's entire understanding is wrapped up the one of the most iconic guitars of the project, Keep Austin Weird. The significance of small business and community-connectedness is prevalent in this guitar simply because community is at the heart of the Austin ideology. Along with that community ideal is the necessity of embracing all walks of life, all beliefs, and all types of city residents. Thus, the eclectic mixture of people in Austin is something that the city's inhabitants hold near to their beliefs. The guitar is comprised of layers of bumper stickers, business cards, and other Austin paper knickknacks sealed into the guitar with a special coating. The mixture of the stickers and signs is analogous to the mixture of people and beliefs that Austin is home to. The guitar brings forth the idea that although there are so many variables involved in making up the city, there is room for them all.
Guitar Town has worked in many dynamic ways to help solidify the character and culture of the ever-weird Austin, Texas. Its 35 10-foot-tall fiberglass guitars have proven to be standing long after any music festival and have made the feeling of connectivity in the city stronger than it ever has been before. Guitar Town has become an entity of the city and will continue to serve as a monumental expression of the many different faces and aspects of the Live Music Capitol. Ultimately, the fact that art can be put on such public display and yet be able to add a personalized understanding to any viewer is amazing, and Guitar Town will forever live on.