A walk through the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, or the HOG, reveals all the best things about Austin's street art culture. Focused painters narrow in on small details as tourists stroll through the bright, chaotic park. Layers upon layers of masterpieces and nonsensical drawings fill every square inch of the walls. While it seems that the formality of requesting to paint on the walls of the gallery defies the rebellious nature of graffiti, the park seems less like an attempt to wrangle in rogue street artists and more like a celebration of Austin's love of loud, public art. Like Austin, the gallery is expressive and fluid. The constantly transforming walls of the HOG remind visitors that with change comes incredible things.
The HOPE Outdoor Gallery began in 2011 as an offshoot of one of creator Andi Scull Cheatham's previous projects. Castle Hill, where the gallery lies, seemed like a bleak prospect for a park in 2010. The property was littered with trash and weeds until 2011, when Scull Cheatham contacted the owners of the property, Vic Ayad and Dick Clark, in an attempt to use it as a location for the newly created HOPE Farmer's Market. Ayad and Clark agreed to let Scull Cheatham use the property for a year. After some intense cleaning, the HOG was launched as a place for local street artists to practice their craft.
Last year, Ayad bought out Clark and secured Castle Hill as a location for the HOG until at least 2015. Although it's costing Ayad over $75,000 a year to maintain the property, his passion for the gallery keeps the park going. Ayad tells the Austin Chronicle that the Gallery represents “...the very things that made me want to come to Austin and stay in Austin: independence, freedom, tolerance, welcome artistic expression, and, in no small way, the marriage between visual art and music.” He also finds it “poetic” that Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall, and Janis Joplin all lived right next to the gallery. With Andi Scull Cheatham and Vic Ayad keeping the HOG alive, the park will be around to spread joy for at least another year. Like many Austin landmarks situated in prime real estate, the park could easily fall victim to Austin's rapid development. As Ayad puts it, regardless of what Castle Hill's fate is, “we're all happy it ever happened.”