Founded in 2007, Los Outsiders is a powerhouse of a curatorial collective in Austin, TX. Made up of artists Jaime Salvador Castillo, Michael Anthony García, Hector Hernandez, and Robert Jackson Harrington, Los Outsiders is a group of forward thinking change makers invested in community engagement, opportunity creation, and the responsibility of place. Michael Anthony García kindly took the time to share the history of Los Outsiders and give us a peek into their future projects.
Gracelee Lawrence: Tell me about the origin of Los Outsiders, the name, and your overarching goals.
Michael Anthony García: The three founding members of Los Outsiders- Jaime Salvador Castillo, Hector Hernandez and myself- met as exhibiting artists in the 11th Young Latino Artist series at Mexic-arte Musuem in Austin. We all liked each other’s work and began meeting to talking about art, particularly art in Austin. This was at a point in time when the scene in Austin was quite small and the few spaces that existed had very close ties to the University of Texas at Austin. If you weren’t a recent MFA graduate it was unlikely to get a break at any of those spaces. That is how our name was derived: we are outside of the system. We realized that we had to create our own opportunities.
Our discussions about the Austin art scene evolved into a video blog and shortly after we starting exhibiting together and co-curating projects. We had to work all of our connections outside of the city to eventually have a chance at making and curating work within our own city.
GL: Moving between community-engaged events, art making, collectivism, and curation, how do you decide what projects to engage with? What is the process of working in a variety of avenues, especially with four members?
MAG: Art making tends to be what we do in our own personal practices. Curating and engaging our community is an extension of our very nature as a group. Certainly one of the biggest advantages to working in a group is sharing the duties and expenses associated with large projects. With the addition of Robert Jackson Harrington, a fellow El Paso native, we expanded our practice to include events that knit together the scattered art community in our city. That wouldn’t have been possible before, nor would it have registered on our radar without his inclusion in the group. Working with others on projects leads to hearing different ideas and sharing opinions, like built-in critiques.
GL: Tell me about the Drawing Lines project and it’s relation to your previous work. Same goes for your curation of the lauded Gently Fried exhibition.
MAG: Drawing Lines has been a perfect fit for Los Outsiders! It is a project that within its very nature is about engaging a community and producing something creative in response. Anything to do with creative place making is within our wheelhouse. We were assigned District One, represented by Council Member Ora Houston, who is a real powerhouse in our city!
With Gently Fried we wanted to speak about ideas and issues that we saw encroaching on our community in Austin. We were thinking about gentrification, livability, cost of living, a rapidly vanishing community of color, opportunities for visual artists, and the city’s unprecedented and rapid growth. We came together to discuss artists that in some way speak to these issues and curated a three-part program for the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC). The first part was an afternoon of performances that took place in the zócalo (plaza) of the MACC. The second part was a large-scale group exhibition in the Sam Z. Coronado Gallery at the MACC. Finally, we wrapped things up with a symposium in which we discussed the issues addressed in the performances and gallery exhibition.
GL: How would you describe the art scene in Austin and what are your anticipations for the next five years in terms of the arts here? What are your hopes for the role that Los Outsiders plays in this community?
MAG: Austin has always been a very open and creative place and that is reflected in the art community. I have lived in Austin for about 15 years and have watched the scene cycle, ebb and flow. Although it is a smaller scene and there are fewer spaces than other Texas cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, I think it has made it more competitive and tighter. The work you do see is strong. Even for the competitive aspect it is still quite friendly and supportive. One of our goals is to expand the breadth of the connections, not just within the visual arts community but also with other artistic disciplines such as theater, dance, and music. In fact, the project that we are working on for FUSEBOX2016 is our first push in that direction.
To learn more about Los Outsiders check out their site.