ArtsResponders Dougherty Arts Center

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Museums and Cultural Programs is launching ArtsResponders: Social Practice Responds to COVID-19. Sites including The Dougherty Arts Center, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center, the Asian American Resource Center, as well as the Elisabet Ney Museum and Oakwood Cemetery Chapel, have commissioned artists to train in Social Practice and engage the community in an artistic response to cope with and overcome COVID-19. The program will run October 5 to March 31, 2021.

Through a juried process, the Dougherty Arts Center selected two artists and their Social Practice projects. Learn more about Sarah Wilson and Caroline Walker and browse the content on this page, view their websites, watch the recorde virtual Artist Talk, and more!


ABOUT THE ARTIST: Caroline Walker is a multi-disciplinary artist. Finding a meeting point between traditional materials and new technology is of key interest in her work. She received a B.S. in engineering; however, she went on to have a successful career as an interactive designer and art director in New York. Motivated by a lifelong interest in creating, Walker moved to Austin in 2015 in order to have more time to work on art. Her work has been included in numerous shows in Austin and the greater Austin area. In 2019, her work won 1st place in the three-dimensional category at Georgetown Art Center. That same year, Walker received a Bronze Award from Bastrop Art in Public Places for one of her augmented reality sculptures. She continues to experiment with ways to combine the digital and the traditional into two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and installation work.


ABOUT THE PROJECT: This project will bring together the collective voices of our community, who are now practicing social-distancing due to COVID-19, to create physical artworks. The public is invited to contribute a brief message about something they are grateful for and has helped them get through the last several months. A template is available for download on Caroline Walker’s site. Submissions may include a drawing, written statement, or a voice recording. These submissions will become part of digitally created mosaics that will be placed around Austin and trigger an augmented reality experience with audio. The Call to submit ended on January 15, 2021.


Caroline Walker broke ground at the Neill-Cochran House Museum and at Prizer Arts & Letters with the first two augmented reality mosaic heart sin her series Collective Voices. These hearts are a visual representation of the gratitude Austinites have for the friends, family, routines, and things that have helped get them through the last several months of the pandemic. More hearts will continue to be installed outdoors across Austin. Be sure to have your phone handy when viewing the mosaic heart in order to get the full experience.


ABOUT THE ARTIST: Wilson is an Austin-raised photographer and cinematographer. Much of her work has focused on communities in crisis. Through portraiture and documentary storytelling, she's been fortunate to tell multi-faceted visual stories of disparate communities. From blind teens at the Texas School for the Blind, to a town reeling from a brutal murder; from victims of the Bastrop fires, survivors of the UT Tower shooting, to teenage girls at rock n’ roll camp, paleontologists in West Texas, and even an enclave of Central Texas nudists, her work finds the connections through community. She seeks to honor individuals and to explore our greater shared humanity. Wilson states, "This work is a privilege."


ABOUT THE PROJECT: In Spring 2020, Austin Mayor Adler’s shelter-in-place order called for citizens to self-isolate, all citizens except those doing specific, identified essential work. Many of these workers are women who risk their own safety and health to support the immediate needs of the community. In return we must also support them. Wilson will call for nominations from the Austin community, encouraging nominations of ALL women including gender-fluid/non-binary and trans women essential workers. Family, friends, and coworkers are invited to submit a description and photo of their loved one in essential service. Selected submissions will be photographed, and their images used to promote the idea that these women protect and serve our community, and in turn we need to wear masks to protect them. The Call to Nominate ended on January 15, 2021.

"We are wearing masks, not just for ourselves, but for everybody else. As medical providers, we just want to help." —Casey Basic- Paramedic Austin-Travis County EMS


Sarah Wilson has hosted photo sessions with selected women essential workers nominated by the Austin community via her project Essentials. The images created from these photos will result in larger-than-life portraits that will be wheat pasted on walls across Austin.

The first portraits are now available to view at: The Linden: 313 W. 17th St, Austin TX, 78701 and at 516 Navasota St, Austin TX, 78702


The Dougherty Arts Center hosted a virtual Artist Talk featuring both Sarah Wilson and Caroline Walker on January 13, 2021. View the recorded version here and listen in as each artist discusses their artistic background, the progress of their social practice projects, and the inspiration behind their message.



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Dougherty Arts Center