Austin Art Garage founders reflect on growing art scene, maintaining Austin aesthetic

Sarah Montgomery

Down a small dirt path off South Lamar sits a metal building not much larger than two dorm rooms. The rusted metal sidings, exposed concrete foundation and dusty exterior leave little hint as to what lies inside the building’s walls: local art, and lots of it, with pieces ranging in price from $20 to $2,500.

The Austin Art Garage, founded in 2007 by Jake Bryer and Joel Ganucheau, is a place for artists and buyers to sell and purchase art in a place that aims to capture the aesthetic of the Austin lifestyle.

“The gallery is for the everyday person,” Bryer said. “Someone that’s young that doesn’t have enough money can buy something, but also there are big original pieces for people to buy. Not everything is affordable for everyone, but there’s something for everyone.”

After working 7.5 years for the Austin Business Journal, Bryer began looking for art to furnish his home in Austin. Following an unsuccessful search, the idea for the art garage took root. 

“I could not find a gallery that reflected Austin at all,” Bryer said. “Instead they were more high-end galleries that felt intimidating. I thought, ‘Where does a normal person go to buy art?’”

With a marketing degree and no previous art experience, Bryer sought out Ganucheau, an artist and childhood friend, for help. 

“I was pretty excited when Jake first called me about the idea of opening the Art Garage,” Ganucheau said. “When we were in high school we both always talked about opening a business together. I guess that was in the back of Jake’s mind.”

After searching on Craigslist, the two found their current location. 

“We were looking for a place like this,” Bryer said. “Something that looked lowbrow and funky and cheap.”

After renovating the building, Bryer and Ganucheau began searching for artists by posting ads on Craigslist, and they were soon flooded with offers. They have since quit their previous jobs and the art garage has doubled in size, showcasing dozens of local emerging and established artists. 

“We’re 100 percent local,” Ganucheau said. “There is so much talent in this town and there’s so many artists in this town that don’t know what to do and where to go, and we try to create a launch pad for them.” 

Tim Lasater, a local artist and childhood friend of Bryer and Ganucheau, has been showcasing in the gallery for the past two years.

“I was working in another field and I hurt my knee,” Lasater said. “They handed me some paints and canvases and brushes. They gave me the opportunity to sell some art and some of them sold and I was like, ‘I’m an artist now.’ I’ve seen so many emerging artists come through here. It’s like an incubation place.”

Both Bryer and Ganucheau’s work is featured in the garage alongside the work of other artists. Still, the two try to keep a distinction between being artists and business owners. 

“I try not to push my own art and let the other artists have a fair chance of selling their work,” Ganucheau said. “This gallery isn’t about Jake and I. That sort of came along the way.”

After watching it change for the past seven years, the owners are happy that the art garage is located in the middle of what they consider Austin’s growing art scene. 

“I feel like we’re at a tipping point,” Bryer said. “We’ve been supporting this all along. We don’t ever look at it as a competitive thing. It’s always growing and I think there’s room for collaboration.”