Johnson City – crossroads of Art & Science

After a tip from the Austin Monthly about the growing art scene in Johnson City I sauntered over to see for myself. Despite construction along parts of 290 (and whatever Dripping Springs is morphing into) I felt more like a friend than a stranger driving through the scenic hill country. I skipped Lyndon’s boyhood home (which is actually cool) stopped for a quick view of the Pedernales River and headed into town.

My first stop was the A.Smith Gallery. Amanda Smith and Kevin Tully are the  gallery directors and artists in residence. The current exhibit of juried (by  Kate Breakey) photographs and sculpture is tastefully curated in an inviting gallery and salon space.  Amanda and Kevin offer workshops and events to keep things lively in between last Saturday art walks, which I’m looking forward to.

Mark L. Smith , one of the founding members of Flatbed Press and owner of the Texas Arthouse Gallery, has a storied history in Austin as both a University of Texas professor and dean and as a fine art consultant for museums and collectors. He is a self-described Raushenbergian, who remains a strong influence on his style. My conversations with Amanda Smith and with Mark Smith at the Texas Arthouse were lively and inspiring, which didn’t leave me time to visit other galleries. I’ll remedy that when I attend the art walk on June 30th. Both galleries are open by appointment and on the weekends, don’t miss them.

I stopped at the Science Mill briefly, which was abuzz with children of all ages. Mark Smith at the Arthouse Gallery said the cultural scene in Johnson City was focused more on fine art and its intersection with science, rather than the typical hodgepodge of antiques and collectibles. Don’t despair, Johnson City still has a few shops for flea market fans. For families considering a day trip to the hill country, the exhibits at the Science Mill offer a nice variety of kid friendly options  between gallery and restaurant strolls. Their Summer Camps are also getting rave reviews and increasing a broad array of sponsorships.

By the time I checked in at Bryan’s on 290 for lunch, I was hot and hungry.  The lightly dusted shrimp with cajun grits and roasted brussel sprouts were delectable and the conversation engaging. News of Anthony Bourdain’s passing that day shook the food community and we toasted to his life over a glass of Vino Bianco, a special selection from “The Piedmont Guy“. Servers and management were friendly and knowledgable and I insisted on taking a picture of the kitchen crew as a tribute to Bourdain’s friendship and support of cooks everywhere. I highly recommend Bryan’s, but there are many other enticing options in and around town.

I visited Johnson City in April of 2012 but it has since grown into a vital arts community with something for everyone.  It will be interesting to go back for the Last Saturday Art Walk on June 30th to visit some of the galleries and restaurants I missed this time.  Enthusiastic two thumbs up for a day trip!

A fine line between 57 and 58

I’m in the Texas hill country celebrating my birthday and enjoying spring in Fredericksburg. On a whim I stopped to say hello to some exotic animals at the Exotic Resort Zoo, then rolled into Fredericksburg to enjoy a hearty German meal at Friedhelms Bavarian Restaurant. Delicious! The Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast gave me shelter for the night in a lovely, quiet home exuding small town charm. I’ll have more to say about my stay after breakfast tomorrow. Off to Enchanted Rock in the morning when I awake to greet 58 with many wonders to look forward to.

April Fools saunter Johnson City

Sunday drives were a family way of life for boomers, like road trips and burger joints. While I don’t eat beef, I did enjoy the really tasty baa baa black sheep burger with goat cheese, stone ground mustard, tomato and pepperoncini peppers at Pecan Street Brew Pub. Couldn’t resist the Sisyphus Barleywine Real Ale, a nice compliment to my burger and sweet potato fries. Walking through the low trafficked, unrented stores and the open streets of Johnson City (where everyone knows each tree) fed my nostalgia for small town life. Taking an out of the way road back to 281 presented us with a romanticized family idyll: a dog swimming in a creek with mom, dad and two laughing kids. The green, rolling hills of the hill country are a welcome harbinger of spring, more wild flowers will come. Rain has caressed the land and given us a delightful bouquet.