Austin’s artist in residence, Antonia “Toni” Ruppert, is pushing for more community engagement amid a pandemic.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26th at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., Ruppert is inviting the community to connect via Zoom for a “get to know the artist” event where people can ask questions and talk about what kind of art they’d like to see in Austin.
Ruppert cited the coronavirus as one more reason community engagement is so important. “People are more isolated due to the pandemic, and people are not seeing their feelings or desires listened to at this moment,” she said.
Since her selection last fall, Ruppert has attended the 15th District faith-based meeting and met with other West Side groups to get a sense of what the community needs.
To help meet her goals to further programming and public art in Austin, Ruppert has assembled a team that includes a lead strategist, graphic designer, another artist and a program manager.
Ruppert said her experience as the current artist in residence has made her even more focused on her goals. She recently met with an art teacher at Michele Clark High School where they discussed the reduction of art programs as a result of COVID-19.
Inspired in part by this news, Ruppert said she plans on creating a youth mentorship program for high school students. Starting in the spring, she’ll be teaching teens about public art and making a community art project with her mentees each month.
Ruppert wants to develop a community engagement plan by Jan. 31st; she wants to make sure to meet with more Austin residents before sharing the plan, which will be implemented from February through June.
Installation for the capstone project is expected to take place from October 2021 to December 2022, depending on how complicated the project is.
There’s not a concrete idea for the project yet, which has a budget of $150,000.
Ruppert said she hopes as many people as possible will be involved in the project, citing her past experience engaging people.
She recounted the story of a woman who recently moved to the U.S. and hadn’t painted since her arrival. The woman’s family brought her to an event to paint with Ruppert; the woman’s eyes lit up once she had the paint brush in her hand.
“That’s who I want to reach,” Ruppert said. “I want to reach someone who’s saying, ‘art is inside of me,’ and maybe I’ll help unleash some of that.”
Anyone who has ideas for a concept or theme for the capstone project should email Ruppert at email@example.com.
Here is some of Ruppert’s artwork: