Austin’s Canopy represents an oasis for the arts, artists, the public

Sandeep Bhakta

Canopy in East Austin has established itself as a creative, multimedia hub, fostering new connections between artists and the public.

By converting and redesigning warehouse space into galleries and dozens of studios with open showings, Canopy has created an opportunity for creative thinkers to gather in a space designed to promote art and culture for scores of people. Organizations like Big Medium and studios like Keith Kreeger Studios and Atelier Dojo have been carefully established at Canopy to further the integration of art into the lives of Austinites. Christina Moser, designer for Big Medium, said the nonprofit organization represents the anchor for artists and the arts at Canopy. The organization managed the entire Canopy complex but now specifically manages the studios in building one.

“We provide a platform for artists in the community to show their artwork,” Moser said. “We do the East and West Austin Studio Tours to help bridge the public with artists and their creative environments to open up a conversation of how people create.”

Keith Kreeger, whose pottery studio has operated since Canopy’s inception, said he creates objects which people use on a daily basis to connect his art with the community.

“If you’re making dinnerware for someone, if it’s for a restaurant or for someone’s house, it’s about that connection between people at a dining table and sharing a meal and sharing those objects,” Kreeger said. “Canopy and (its openness) allows me to show people that.”

The location of Canopy has also allowed Kreeger to convey the meaning and specialty of his work to Austin as a whole.

“The studio tour is a great way to show that off because people from all over Austin from all walks of life come through,” Kreeger said. “That’s a special thing that happens at Canopy.”

An additional Canopy studio works to bridge gaps between established creatives, emerging artists and individuals who are inexperienced with creating art. By offering courses taught by experienced, local instructors, Atelier Dojo is able to create an academy within Canopy’s walls that inspires imagination.

UT contemporary studio art alumnus Justin Balleza, who graduated in spring 2009, now works as a cast drawing instructor and studio coordinator for Atelier Dojo. In a space covered in works created by both instructors and students, Balleza says the Dojo is the place where one trains their “way.”

“There are different teachers teaching different ways, but we’re all speaking the same language,” Balleza said. “There’s room for everybody, and there’s room for everybody to be unique and different.”

Balleza likens the atmosphere of Atelier Dojo to a sort of sanctuary.

“The founders of this school have created this sanctuary where others can come, so we can connect everyone,” Balleza said. “Here, we have a strong network. There’s no doubt. We’re keeping the level high, but our atmosphere is light and comfortable.”

Accounting professor Shuping Chen is also a student of the Dojo and takes classes from Balleza. It was through Canopy that Chen said she discovered an opportunity to explore art and focus on its importance.

“Art is one of the few pure things that still exists in this world that we can pursue, that’s completely our own and untainted by materialistic obsessions,” Chen said. “It brings
enjoyment, it brings relaxation, it brings focus.”