Crumbling Castle: Austin artists prep for Graffiti Park’s move

Ruben Paquian

A day before the impending freeze earlier this week, families and artists scaled the colorful concrete jungle known as HOPE Outdoor Gallery, aka Graffiti Park. Amateurs and professional artists alike left their mark while enjoying the last day of fair weather. What most are unaware of is that this is the last year HOPE Outdoor Gallery will call Baylor Street home.

A press release from late November announced the gallery will move to a permanent home at Carson Creek Ranch, far east near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The new park will span six acres with extended wall space, daily operation hours, parking and bathrooms, and it is expected to open by the end of 2018. The current park is to be cleared out by June to make way for the construction of a new residential development. Those who know of the park’s move expressed conflicting opinions of the change to this Austin landmark.

Photographer Jules Aboloff has documented the continuously changing walls of the park since its creation in 2011. For years, he has spent countless hours photographing whatever catches his eye, but according to Aboloff, the park’s move isn’t going to change that.

“The camera doesn’t care, it’s ready 24/7,” Aboloff said. “When they’re ready to move, the camera, this camera, is ready. It’s ready now, let’s go.” 

Matt Gutierrez, the manager for Aboloff’s art store, Jules’ Gems, said he handles the printing and selling of Aboloff’s pictures. Although Aboloff himself isn’t worried about the move, Gutierrez isn’t sure their venture will be able to continue at the new location.

“It’s a crossroads where we’re at now. It’s a lot of unknown as far as if we’re gonna be involved (at the new location) or if we’re not gonna be involved,” Gutierrez said. “A lot of people look forward to seeing (Jules’) stuff. It’s bittersweet.”

Distance is another concern that arises from the new location, as many artists travel from neighboring cities to paint at HOPE.

“The only problem is that it’s going to be really far out of town,” said Marvin Riley, a 40-year-old graffiti artist and a regular contributor to the park. “It seems like (most of the graffiti artists) live far up north — Round Rock and all that.”

To Riley and others, the park is more than just a canvas: It’s a hub for the street art community. Despite the fact that their day’s work will be short-lived, many come for the welcoming environment it provides for artists, and as long as a space still exists, Riley is content.

“We have an understanding that our stuff at the end of that day will be done over, but it’s just more like a cool hang out,” Riley said. “We’ll go wherever the walls are, wherever we can paint legally.”

But not all share Riley’s sentiments. Artist Rodd Quinn moved to Austin a year ago and found a home at HOPE’s current location. He fears the change will take away a crucial part of what made the space the magical place it is. 

“I don’t like that it’s moving because this place, it has a pulse man, it has like a soul to it,” Quinn said. “No matter what time you show up to it, 24/7 there’s people here, whether they are painting or just checking out the skyline.” 

Despite Quinn’s skepticism of how the new park will turn out, he is still hopeful that it will provide space for artists to practice sharing their craft, and he is willing to give it a shot.

“I mean, I’m still gonna paint over there,” Quinn said.