Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from Terry Allen promoting his first studio album in fourteen years to a look at the taquerías of Brownsville's Southmost neighborhood. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
In 1998, the filmmaker Josh Carter was driving around West Texas when he noticed a billboard that read “Dell City: The Valley of Hidden Waters.” “Standing on a highway not traveled, and nothing but desert, I had to check it out,” said Carter, a native of Houston now living in Brooklyn. What he found was a farming community fueled by a giant aquifer, whose residents would become the subjects of his 2011 film, Tales from Dell City, Texas , which he will screen in Austin on Friday . The documentary is a mix of interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage capturing a way of life among about 400 people “so far removed from the rest of the world”—a small-town culture that is rapidly becoming extinct in an increasingly cosmopolitan Texas. “They can’t field the six-man football team anymore,” said Carter, who chronicles this simple life in a creative way. He had four residents co-direct short films on Dell City to exist within his movie, one of which involved baby lambs. “It was a short that a shepherd—this old grizzled guy—wanted to make,” Carter said. “He raises sheep and the highlight of his day is the afternoon, when they’re running and playing, because that means they’re healthy.”
Austin Studios, January 25, 7:30 p.m., austinfilm.org
Southmost is the poorest neighborhood in Brownsville, the border town leading to Matamoros, but it also might be the taco epicenter of Texas. In the exhibit “ Taquerías of Southmost ,” Chuy Benitez, a photographer from El Paso known for his panoramic shots, focused on the food, kitchens, and people representing this scene. “The exhibit really captures the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants,” said Cristina Ballí, a Brownsville native and the director of Texas Folklife , who curated “Taquerías” with the Brownsville Heritage Museum. “I think it is a great example to the rest of the country as it’s dealing with many pockets of Mexican immigrants and how they can turn their traditions into successful ventures.” Learn about Antojitos Yoly, what Ballí calls “the mothership of the taquerías in Brownsville,” and D’Marcelo, the Matamoros taquería that started as a food cart run by the current owner’s father, who liked to park near the circuses when they came to town. And then go eat at both.
Brownsville Heritage Museum, January 25-31, texasfolklife.org
The Other Flatlander
During Christmastime 1999, Terry Allen , the Lubbock musician who is also a heralded visual artist, discovered his long-lost dog, Queenie. She had disappeared months earlier, but when he found her, she was lying under a tree with a bullet hole in her. When Allen returned home, he told Guy Clark, a fellow Texan singer-songwriter who was in Allen’s recording studio, that someone had shot Queenie. Clark replied, “Well, let’s write a song about it.” That song, “Little Queenie,” is on Allen’s new collection, The Bottom of the World , which is his first studio album in fourteen years. The song is wry and sentimental—Allen’s magic combination—and you will no doubt hear it during his last Texas club date currently on the calendar in support of the album.
The Kessler Theater, January 26, 7 p.m., terryallenartmusic.com
The first rule of viewing art is, do not touch. That is impossible at the new exhibit by the Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg at Rice Gallery —the only university art museum in the United States dedicated to site-specific installations. Klingberg’s “ Wheel of Everyday Life ” makes art out of the floor. A stroll around the gallery and lobby area will reveal a combination of reinterpreted logos arranged in a circular black-and-white pattern evoking a Buddhist mandala. Listen to Klingberg, who will be present opening night to explain the relationship between these symbols. Or you can walk all over it to gain your own understanding.
Rice Gallery, January 31-March 17, ricegallery.org
And . . . Action
There is no mystery to the method acting exercised by the likes of Christoph Waltz—who won a Golden Globe for Django Unchained and was a student of Lee Strasberg—other than to be yourself and live in the moment, a technique applicable to everyday life and a reason why even non-actors will benefit from the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute Austin Seminar.
Zach Theatre, January 25-27, methodactingstrasberg.com
Over the Rainbow
The heightened intensity of Judy Garland’s original recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” mixed with a live score from the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra , during a screening of The Wizard of Oz , might make you believe that dreams really do come true.
Bass Performance Hall, January 25-26 at 8 p.m. and January 27 at 2 p.m., fwsymphony.org