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Q&A with Drew Austin of the Dairy Arts Center

Drew AustinDrew Austin is the curator of visual arts at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, where he exhibits the work of local artists and talents from all around the world in four rotating gallery spaces. Drew is also an interdisciplinary artist, creating installations that combine paint, drawing, sculpture, objects and light.

What draws you to so many different types of materials and mediums in your work?
For me it's it's more about the idea, and I think that the idea kind of demands a medium and then that's the drive to create with that medium. I also, within my own practice, find a lot of I find a lot of joy in the materials that I use like there's a lot of material exploration within my practice.

"Articulated Cabinet with Space Object" by Drew Austin

Given your background in photography, do you have like a spot or subjects around Boulder that you think would make any like photo op for visitors?
The place that I always go to is Wonderland Lake. I think that you really get a sense of how the light affects the land there because of the water and the landscape among the plants and everything. I'm often drawn to plants and weeds and like overlooked things. That place, it's just kind of rampant with vegetation, which I really enjoy.

Photo by Gwen Gray

Wonderland Lake in the fall

I drive in from Westminster every day and so on Highway 36 when you come up to Davidson Mesa and plunge down into the valley, that view of the Front Range is something that I just love, and it changes every single day. It depends on the weather. It depends on the light. It depends on the time of day you come in, and it's really interesting. We have an exhibition on view right now at the Dairy where an artist is exploring the Flatirons from many different viewpoints and perspectives and it’s a similar experience to that.

Vintage VW Bus Near Davidson Mesa Overlook

Do you have a favorite exhibition that stands out in your memory at the Dairy?
At the end of the year last year called “Vessel” that I'm just specifically really proud of. I did an open call to community members, and the work that they gave to me was just so beyond anything I could have imagined. That was a really a beautiful exchange of trust between curator and artist and something that I try to lean heavily into.

Photo by Dairy Arts Center

Dairy Arts Center

Is there anything around town or about Boulder that inspires your work?
Because of the landscape, the artists in Boulder are so good at creating and taking time and space for themselves. I think that's something that my work requires, since a lot of it is about looking and perception and slow, tiny, monotonous, little overlooked things.

Photo by Gwen Gray

"Sandra Bland" mural at the Dairy Arts Center by the "Spray Their Name" Collective

How would you characterize or describe Boulder’s art scene to somebody who's never been here?
We just hosted Open Studios preview exhibition at the Dairy, so it was a really good chance to get a taste of what Boulder is about. There are a lot of makers here. As a viewer, you will find someone or something that you connect to which I think is really unique and really beautiful. I also think that there's a commitment to art here. You know, I think that Boulderites love art, and I think that Boulder artists love art. And I think that because of that, there is a big investment in it.

An artist's space on view during Open Studios

If you had a free afternoon in Boulder, how would you spend it?
I would probably start on Pearl Street and hit up Trident Booksellers & Café and browse their art book section, which I think is always good and very cheap, which I love. And then Boulder Book Store always has amazing used books. I could spend hours in a bookstore just like browsing. I recently stumbled onto The New Local, a really fun gallery and artist-driven shop. I’m also a big thrifter, so I’d go to the Amazing Garage Sale up north. Boulder has a lot that goes on at night, like here at the Dairy, like shows or movies, so I’d end it doing something like that or going to the Boulder Theater.

Photo by Gwen Gray

Trident Booksellers and Cafe

If you had friends or family visiting and you wanted to show them around Boulder, where would you go?
I love, love, love sending people to Liberty Puzzles on Pearl Street. That place is so incredible! I love taking people to North Boulder Art District to explore, and, specifically, East Window is one of my favorite galleries up there. And then a hike like Wonderland Lake. Spend a couple hours walking along there, you know? I’d also recommend Two Hands Paperie, a stationary shop that is great to browse. 

Photo by Gwen Gray

NoBo Art District

Do you have ideas on how someone can visit Boulder more responsibly?
The city is set up with the infrastructure to bike, so if someone is interested in biking, it could be a really exciting way to get around and explore Boulder. Another thought is that places like the Museum of Boulder and Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the Dairy are institutions that can tell you more about Boulder. And I think that's a great way to be aware of the community that you're visiting.

Museum of Boulder