Headed WEST? We certainly are.

Each May we look forward to the artist takeover that culminates in Big Medium’s West Austin Studio Tour. This year, with 374 studios, exhibitions and happenings to visit, we’ve started to plan early. (Well, earlier than we normally do).

As participants and tour-goers, we’ve been able to experience the tour from both sides. To get the most out of the tour it is essential to plan ahead. Though spontaneity can be sprinkled in, knowing where to go, what to bring and how to get there will absolutely make it a memorable experience.

See: WEST Tour Stops and Routes

The biggest challenge to overcome is figuring out what stops to visit. With 351 scheduled this year, it’s not an easy task. Luckily, there are alternatives to planning everything yourself.

Our best tip is to let someone else do the work for you! That was our inspiration behind our first Wild WEST Bus Tour. Hop on, grab a drink and let us guide you through each day theme by theme.

If you’re set on experiencing the tour solo, we recommend using the WEST app (for iOS and Android devices). This year, Big Medium has partnered with Third Rail Creative to digitize the tour. Users can filter the participants by medium, category and space type to create a custom list of their favorite stops.

Our best tip is to incorporate a range of stops throughout the two weekends. Variety sets this event apart from the rest. Mix in large exhibitions with intimate home studios. Head to happenings for a more interactive take.

Eat: Take a break to Fuel Up for WEST

WEST is a marathon and for me, that means snack breaks! Finding delicious local food is not a challenge in Austin, but we have marked a few of our favorites on our own WEST map.

We’ve distilled the full map into our picks for stops outside of those visited on our tour, along with places to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner! (And second breakfast, a coffee break and dessert).

Remember: Getting the Most Each Day of WEST

Whether you’ve attended the last seven years or it’s your first time ever, there are always new ways to improve your experience. Here are a couple of our most useful tips:

Interact!

WEST is unique because unlike a typical gallery experience, viewers have the opportunity to interact in an intimate setting with the artists. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their process, commissions and upcoming events. Also, don’t forget to tag artists in photos you post!

What to Bring

Though most stops are accommodating, it’s never a bad idea to be prepared:

  • Keep cash and credit card on hand (to purchase art and for donations)
  • Bring a reusable bag for the goodies you pick up
  • If you don’t want to rest in between, bring a reusable water bottle and pack snacks
  • If you’re old school like me and prefer putting pen to paper, bring a small notepad and pen to jot down names of artists you want to connect with

The most useful tip we can give is to make the West Austin Studio Tour your own. This is your time to enjoy the weirdness, creativity and imagination the Austin art community has to offer.

Happy WESTing!

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