Broads in Austin team up in name of art and activism

Anna-Kay Reeves

Women are responsible and ladies look nice in pearls, but broads? Broads make things, and the gals behind Broad Studios make amazing art together.

The idea, like many great things, was born out of necessity. When ceramicists Genna Williams and Kara Pendl found themselves in need of a new studio space, the women decided to look for one to share. But before they could find anything independently, fate intervened.

“I went to CraftHER Market around the time we decided to start looking for a place, and I swear, it was like the seas parted and there was the answer,” Williams said. “It was a booth that said Springdale General.”

Springdale General is a community space in East Austin dedicated to building creative community. Construction on the East Austin space will finish in June, and Broad Studios will be in full swing within the same month. According to Williams, the studio space within Springdale was too large for just two artists, prompting the women to reach out to other women creatives in Austin. 

“We decided very early on we wanted it to be a female collective,” Williams said. “We talked about including guys, because there are some guys in Austin making amazing things, but we both felt like this is our time to come together as women and inspire each other. We want this to be a space for women to come together and lift each other up.”

Broad Studios comprises Genna Williams, Hallie Shafer and Kara Pendl, who are all ceramicists, as well as fiber artist Ellen Bruxvoort and painter Emily Eisenhart. It’s possible that the studio may expand in the future to include more female artists.

For Bruxvoort, whose work as a fiber artist consists of wall hangings and accessories made from yarn and fabric, Broad Studios represents new creative horizons with artists such as fellow broad Shafer.

“I think one of the great things about being in a space like this will be that collaboration is inevitable,” Bruxvoort said. “Being around other artists’ creative processes subtly influences the way you think of your own creative process, and that’s going to be something amazing to see.”

Although sharing a space can be difficult, the women anticipate that their interactions will be more collaborative than not. 

“It’s not every day that you get five women in a room and they all get along really well, but we do,” Williams said. “Personality-wise, we’re all very in tune.”

Bruxvoort agreed with Williams. “We balance each other as a group. Each girl is strong in some way that another is weak, and in that way, we meet each other’s needs. I think that’s (what is) amazing about this group,” Bruxvoort said. 

Shafer, who is also an elementary school art teacher, said she sees the studio space as not only an opportunity for collaboration but for accountability as well. 

“If other people are in the studio, I’m going to want to be there, too. I’m not going to want to be the one that’s slacking and not showing up for studio time. I want to be there and be part of it,” said Shafer. 

For Shafer, being part of a collective adds new motivation to being active in studio work. 

“I want the studio to be as good as it possibly can be, and it’s going to be as good as it possibly can be with all of us there being active in the space,” said Shafer. “It feels good to be there rooting for each other.”