Founders of Art Island Maria Gotay & Ryan Padgett talk about creating a creative oasis of inclusion, collaboration & exploration in Maria’s backyard.

Art Island, the community powered art party and collective, has a very simple mission, “to bring people together to express themselves, collaborate, and make meaningful connections in the Austin art scene and beyond.”

And it all started with a backyard.

Check out their QTopia event on Saturday, September 5th from 9pm–12am!

Art Island Headshots
How was Art Island born? 

Ryan: It started when I was hanging out with Maria and I saw her backyard, where we throw it. It’s just an incredible space. 

Maria: There’s an inlet off of my backyard that becomes an island, depending on the flow of the dam. It’s accessible from my backyard and we thought that it could be an island of discovery. We could put art installations everywhere and have music coming from my yard to curate the experience. 

But the water level from the dam is super unpredictable and leading up to the time we were supposed to do it, we couldn’t even get out to the island. The water level was too strong, so the island became my backyard! 

Almost everyone at our first event was DJing, an artist, or a good friend or partner of the artists – it was really a gathering of people showing each other what we made. 

Art Island Events
Art Island Festivities, Photos (left) by Brittany Halberg; (right) by Lola Saba

“We thought that it could be an island of discovery.”

Who is involved in the events? 

Ryan: Maria handles all things art and oversees general production of the entire event. I handle all things music: DJ’s, sound system, lighting, power.

Maria: Jason provides Gong Fu Cha tea service. Morgan has a tight in with the fire spinning community and brings performers. Maite comes from Odd Duck and does food for us. Additionally, there is a mini animation festival per event. If you include all the animators and every single person who contributed art for the last event, I think it was over 50 people, pushing 60.

Talk about pivoting to digital raves for quarantine. 

Maria: The events are on Zoom for now. We reach out to glow and fire performers, and we have at least one person doing visuals. We also have people doing live painting and drawing, DJs, and costumes. We have a lineup but we also say just bring whatever you got, so people can show up and work on something. Our friend Lauren has been working on a video game. While in the zoom room, she puts on her screen share so we can see what she’s doing. 

Art Island Fire Spinning
Fire Spinning by Brittany Halberg
Would you say Art Island is surreal? 

Ryan: Yes, I’ve had so many people show up and they’re just like “where am I right now? What is this place?

You walk down this big hill into a jungle-like backyard, and all you see is lights and music in the distance. You get down there and you’re on the river, and there’s tea service going on, a DJ, people dancing and having fun, fire spinners, and there’s art everywhere. 

Maria: And you can also go swimming! Water shoes are necessary though. 

How can people get involved with art island? 

We extend an invitation to anyone who wants to get involved. This is not an exclusive situation. If you are passionate about something, show us and come build with us. 

SUPPORT Art Island by Following them & Attending their EVENTS!




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