Explore Austin’s Cultural Arts
Austin is an epicenter of creativity, with a vibrant cultural arts scene. The City supports its creative community by providing funding for a variety of cultural attractions and public art projects. Starting at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, visitors are greeted by MEANDER WINGS, an experiential gateway sculpture by artist Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY, commissioned by the Economic Development Department's Art in Public Places Program. Mimicking the twisting contours of live oaks and limestone grottos native to the Texan landscape, its distinct structural network forms a dramatic canopy over pedestrians heading in and out of the terminal.
By staying in Austin-area hotels, visitors help support Austin’s arts through a dedicated portion of the City’s Hotel Occupancy Tax. Explore a variety of eclectic art and cultural experiences in Austin all year-round!
Left to right: Courtesy of The VORTEX; Roy Lozano's Ballet Folklorico de Texas, Photo by Jesus Chacon; Courtesy of Austin Dance Ensemble.
Dance, Visual Art & Theater
Catch performances and visual art happenings in Austin all year long. Here's just a sampling(find upcoming event dates on individual websites):
allgo develops cutting-edge performances and exhibits that focus on affirming and celebrating diverse cultural experiences and identities with programs that nurture, explore and promote queer people of color. They offer year-round opportunities to participate in and experience art that reflects queer experiences.
Dazzling audiences in Austin and throughout the world, Aztlan Dance Company creates innovative works that challenge tradition. Their signature blend of dance fuses indigenous, folk and contemporary forms into rich, moving storytelling. Experience contemporary, expressive Xicano/Latino dance year round.
For more than three decades, Ballet East Dance Company has remained a performance and training platform for many emerging dance artists. From modern dance to jazz to ballet folklorico, the company presents all kinds of dance genres under one roof.
Austin’s culture of music and art makes it a magnet for enthusiasts from around the world. Capitol View Arts preserves that culture and expands it to represent disenfranchised artists and communities. Capitol View Arts offers year-round happenings for arts enthusiasts.
Dance Africa Fest offers African diaspora dance with artists representing countries and creative dance practices showcasing the global footprint of Africa through different dance cultures. Events focus on African/Black cultural and historical heritage, providing dance instruction from some of the most notable and in-demand cultural dance experts. Keep an eye on their website for programming that showcases work by dancers, musicians, drummers and artists of the African diaspora.
DAWA’s Vision:8291 programming uses artistic, entrepreneurial and cultural assets in Austin to invest in BIPOC-led grassroots organizations. Their Unity showcase during SXSW includes guest speakers from community organizations between sets.
E4 Youth Inc. works with creative youth from underserved communities, and partners with those who invest cultural capital into these communities. E4 Youth’s Showcase & Awards is their largest annual event, featuring student work. The annual May showcase features creative work developed by E4’s Creative Leadership Academy.
Dance at Esquina Tango’s fantastic live music events, shows, socials and milongas at their main location and at pop-ups like Cuban socials and Festa Brasileira. Consider signing up for group classes, special workshops and private lessons. They offer free dance classes for seniors, LGBTQ+ and those affected by Parkinson's. Many styles come together at Esquina Tango and include Afro-Latin, samba, tango, salsa, bachata, reggaeton, Brazilian zouk and Kizomba.
Glass Half Full Theatre began as a small company and netted considerable critical acclaim for its inventive blend of puppetry and physical storytelling. Through multilingual works featuring puppets and people, the company creates thought-provoking work that appeals to people of all ages, across linguistic and cultural boundaries, to the heart of the imagination.
Imagine Art’s vision is to transform the lives of artists with disabilities, done through a creative place approach, where every life is a work of art and a catalyst of change. Enjoy year-round events, including gallery showings, bazaars and classes.
India Fine Arts Inc. promotes India’s performing arts traditions by hosting distinguished artists for concerts, dances and ballets, and provides a platform for young local artists to become tomorrow’s masters. They also provide raga-based musical therapy for seniors. Coming this year will be Vidwan Vijay Siva, accompanied by his prime disciples; Magic Bow, life through the eyes of Maestro Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman; and Ahuti: A Collaborative Ballet of Bangalore Nrithyagram and Sri Lanka’s Chitrasena Dance Company.
Visitors to La Peña Gallery can take in art exhibitions and Austin history while enjoying amazing handmade breakfast tacos. Don’t miss annual events like International Women’s Day in March and the Day of the Dead exhibit in October, which includes an opening reception and art market.
Lannaya educates audiences with authentic and progressive interpretations of drum and dance of the African diaspora. “Lannaya” means confidence in Susu, the West African language of Guinea. Lannaya offers bimonthly drum and dance community workshops, as well as performances throughout the year.
Latinas Unidas Por El Arte, also known as LUPE Arte, encourages Latino arts and culture in Austin, with a focus on many artistic genres. Annually in November, MexAmeriCon shows off Austin’s first Mexican American and Latinx Comic Book Convention. Keep an eye out for exhibits and arts workshops throughout the year.
Latinitas empowers girls to innovate using media and technology, with a vision to create courageous leaders. Their year-round programming includes free “Tech Familia” workshops focused on STEAM activities, from podcasting to robotics for the whole family, at libraries and community centers.
The Mexic-Arte Museum is dedicated to enriching the community through education programs, exhibitions and the collection, preservation and interpretation of Mexican, Latino and Latin American art and culture. The annual Day of the Dead Parade is the largest and longest-running Día de los Muertos celebration in Texas. Programming also includes a monthly Changarrito residency, the Taste of Mexico festival, and an Emerging Latinx Artists exhibition. The museum’s permanent collection houses over 5,000 historical and contemporary works.
The Museum of Human Achievement (MoHA) is a community-driven art space grounded in affordability, inclusivity and access. It hosts a variety of year-round programming, including exhibitions, performances, concerts, digital arts, video games and drive-in movies. For more information on programming, visit their website.
Outreach Productions presents the annual Community Juneteenth Festival at the George Washington Carver Museum and Library. Festivities include storytelling, a puppet show and presentations on the history of Black Austin Freedom Communities.
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center is the only center affiliated with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in this region of the Southwest United States. Engage in indigenous Taino cultural programs and gatherings that encompass folkloric music, dance, community theater and ancestral fighting arts. In early January, celebrate Octavitas with Los Reyes Magos. Bring the kids, enjoy a parranda sing-along, company performances and dancing for all in mid-January at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Each June, the Center produces Proyecto Montañas, a salsa and heritage cultural exchange festival of Colombia and Boricua Mountain traditions. Experience a rich fusion of cultures at this annual summer festival that features handcrafts by artisans, traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, dance and musical performances. Early in November, the Center presents Dia Operito Naguti (Nagu Yukayeke Yara Cu), a Taino ceremonial dance. Similar to Día de Los Muertos, this is a traditional day of celebration honoring Taino ancestors and loved ones.
Red Salmon Arts is a grassroots literary and cultural arts organization working with Austin’s indigenous neighborhoods. They are dedicated to the development of emerging writers and the promotion of Chicana/o/x/Latina/o/x/Native American literature through year-round literary events.
For more than four decades, Roy Lozano's Ballet Folklorico de Texas has enriched the state’s cultural wealth by sharing high-quality Mexican folk dance and education programs. Its vision is to be Texas’ premier ballet folklorico company where anyone can perform professionally and celebrate a legacy of excellence. Productions include many annual free public events, such as Noche de Folklore at Zilker Hillside Theater in August, and the downtown Día de los Muertos parade in November.
Taranada celebrates Romani International Day and the beauty of Romani Texas music annually in April. The hAmaro Fest unites the cultures of Romani and Indian people through the arts, workshops, concerts and educational programs.
Torch Literary Arts promotes the work of Austin’s Black women writers in literary arts. Their programs feature works by emerging and experienced writers, such as the Torch Wildfire Reading Series, a creative writing and professional development workshop. Torch Literary Arts also participates in special events with community partners, including the Texas Book Festival and local independent bookstores.
In observance of World AIDS Day, WhatsintheMirror presents the annual Arts Heals Festival in December. The three-day multidisciplinary festival aims to end mental health and HIV stigma by using art as an educational and healing tool. The fest collaborates with people living with HIV/AIDS and mental health conditions, as well as local artists and community members who are dedicated to ending the stigma.
The VORTEX is an artist-owned repertory theater in East Austin that’s internationally recognized for its alternative take on everything from plays to operas. Heading into its 36th season, the Vortex has much to offer all year long: intimate performances, theatrical productions, and workshops.
Reflections by artist Reginald C. Adams. Image by Reginald C. Adams. Commissioned by the City of Austin Art in Public Places program.
African American Cultural and Heritage Facility
Situated within the state-designated Black African American Cultural and Heritage District, the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility offers business support and arts, cultural and entertainment programming. The Dedrick-Hamilton House is the restored historic home once owned by one of the first freed slaves in Travis County, Thomas Dedrick, and his son William Dedrick. The home was built circa 1880 in one of the earliest African-American communities in East Austin.
Portraits of Our History, by artist Ryan Runcie, is located on the east wall of the AACHF. The mural features notable African-American figures, including Dedrick Hamilton, Johnny Holmes, Doris Miller, Dorothy Turner, Gary Clark Jr., Mikaela Ulmer and Charles Overton.
Reflections, by Reginald C. Adams and commissioned by the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places program, captures important people, places and events in Austin’s African-American community. Every year an honoree is selected by the City of Austin’s African American Resource Advisory Commission and added to the artwork. See the Reflections portrait guide for more information about the mural.
The facility typically hosts on-site cultural events. Regular hours are Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday by appointment. Learn more about what's offered at the AACHF in their calendar of events.
Courtesy of Great Promise for American Indians. Photo by Adam Grumbo.
The Austin Chinese-American Network organizes the free-admission Austin Chinese Culture Festival, a traditional celebration during the Lunar New Year. The event features a variety of lion and dragon dances, ethnic food and drinks, live performances, cultural exhibits, traditional games and community exhibitions. It is well-suited for families interested in Chinese culture.
Austin International Drag Festival hosts an annual drag festival that showcases performers from across the globe and brings them to Austin each April.
The Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival presents a fascinating look at the culture of Native Americans, and is the largest one-day powwow in the United States, occurring each November. The festival includes hundreds of champion dancers from across the country, live music, storytelling, and arts and crafts vendors. Great Promise for American Indians, an Austin nonprofit, produces the event.
Each September, the Eastside Kings Festival takes place in the Rosewood area of East Austin, a location of tradition and cultural legacy for blues and R&B dating to the post-World War II era. The music festival focuses on largely unknown African American musicians and works to present, preserve and promote the cultural heritage of African American blues, jazz and gospel.
The Indian Classical Music Circle of Austin (ICMCA) is Austin’s premier organization for promoting Indian classical arts. In the fall of 2024, ICMCA will launch its first two-day Asian International Cultural Festival. The event will provide a unique stage for a range of music and dance forms, traditional crafts, yoga and mindfulness classes, Ayurvedic traditional medicine, a grand bazaar, and cuisines that amplify the heritage of India.
J.O.I. Community Outreach presents a Jump On It week. The summertime six-day music conference includes live music performances, workshops, parties and the annual Celebrating Our Culture Parade.
Oita Japan Festival, an annual family-friendly celebration held in late summer, features Japanese food and drink, kids' activities, J-pop and traditional music, martial arts and an artisan marketplace. Oita has been a Sister City to Austin since 1990.
Rancho Alegre Conjunto Music Festival returns each spring for a three-day festival that delivers unique events focusing on Conjunto music.
Left to right: Commissioned by the City of Austin Art in Public Places program. Harmonic Strings by artists Rakhee Jain Desai and Melissa Knight, photo by Jana Birchum; Building Community by artist Lindsey Millikan, photo by Philip Rogers; End of the Rainbow by Ion Art, photo by Philip Rogers.
Art in Public Places
Austin’s impressive public art collection, commissioned and conserved by the Art in Public Places program within the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department since 1985, offers hundreds of artworks on view 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The self-guided Art in Public Places walking tour maps and bike routes point visitors to artworks throughout downtown Austin, including the most Instagram-able mural in Austin, Tau Ceti, at the corner of Second and Brazos Streets. Seek out the fun, interactive Kempelen’s Owls, a pair of quirky 10-foot sculptures perched one block east of the Austin Central Library. And tour Austin via Wander, an app-based artwork, that leads visitors on a choose-your-own adventure to learn about historic, quirky and secret sites in Austin, while immersed in a choice of four stories written and illustrated by local authors and artists. Austin Art in Public Places works with local and national artists to commission new artwork.
Islands by artist Lisa B. Woods. Courtesy of Cultural Arts Division.
UNESCO City of Media Arts
In 2015, Austin became the first city in the United States to receive a City of Media Arts designation from UNESCO. The honor underscores Austin’s reputation as an innovative global city at the intersection of art, music, film, gaming and multidisciplinary digital experiences.
As a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Austin works individually and in partnership with other UNESCO cities to promote creativity and the integration of culture into urban development plans. Through the designation, Austin artists are given opportunities to exhibit locally and participate in international cultural exchange programs with other UNESCO Creative Cities.
Tracy by Owen Dodgen. Photo by Philip Rogers.
The People's Gallery
Since 2005, Austin City Hall has hosted The People’s Gallery, a showcase of works by Austin artists and arts organizations. The People's Gallery reflects the artistic diversity of Austin, with more than 140 artworks displayed (and many for sale) throughout City Hall.
Courtesy of Austin Asian American Film Festival. Photo by Ray Lloyd.
ICONIC AUSTIN FILM
Austin hosts a wide range of film festivals throughout the year. Some fests to check out:
All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival (aGLIFF)
In late August, aGLIFF will host Prism Prism 37, a film festival that screens features, documentaries and shorts. Additionally, aGLIFF curates a monthly series called Queer Spectrum, featuring screenings and events that celebrate LGBTQ+ stories year round.
Austin Asian American Film Festival
With a focus on Asian and Asian-American storytelling via media arts, the flagship annual film festival takes place in June. Save the date for their Sweet 16th Austin Asian American Film Festival from June 26–30, 2024. Make plans to attend year-round community screenings highlighting new Asian and Asian American films.
Austin Film Festival
In addition to an eight-day film festival and four-day conference, the Austin Film Festival offers screenings and conversations with filmmakers year round. Join the 31st annual Austin Film Festival & Writers Conference that kicks off on Oct. 26, 2024.
Cine Las Americas Film Festival
celebrates Latino, Latina, American Indigenous and Ibero-American filmmakers and their stories. The festival showcases contemporary films and videos from Latin America, as well as those made by or about Latinos in the United States and around the world. Check out the festival in June.
Indie Meme Film Festival
The award-winning Indie Meme Film Festival (IMFF) celebrates independent cinema, bringing the best South Asian and Iranian films to audiences through in-person screenings, Q&As, mixers and filmmaker events. IMFF takes place each April. Also check out their year-round film events in Austin.
OUTsider Film & Arts Festival celebrates its 10th birthday in 2024 with the bold originality of LGBTQ+ film, dance, theater, performance art, music and visual art. This annual festival and conference unites queer artists and audiences from around the globe to exchange ideas and ignite conversations. OUTsider 2024 is slated for Feb. 15–18, 2024.
Learn more about City of Austin Economic Development Department programs and their role in the development of Austin's creative economy. Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook @CityofAustinArts.
Photo of MEANDER WINGS by artist Marc Fornes/THEEVERYMANY, commissioned by the City of Austin Art in Public Places program. Photo by Jeremy Green.