Go Fly a Kite
The Zilker Kite Festival is the granddaddy of all festivals in Austin. It was founded in 1929, seven years before Zilker Park opened, with a mission to “encourage creativity in children.” Considered the longest continuously running kite festival in the United States, the event nowadays draws around twenty thousand high flyers of all ages and skills levels, either leisurely watching or perhaps competing in one of many contests. Multiply twenty thousand people by 86 years and you get 1.72 million. That’s an extremely generous quantity of people served, but even if put at a conservative million, there are so many varying experiences that perhaps the best way to convey what it’s like to attend the festival is to turn to some Yelp reviews. “Any FREE thing going on in Austin these days is going to be packed,” Jason L. wrote, “ESPECIALLY something as awesome as the Annual Kite Fest. Come in knowing 3 things. 1. It will be crowded. 2. Lines will be long. 3. Kite will most likely get brought down by a Sponge Bob or Hello Kitty kite. Keeping those things in mind and understand they will happen, and you will have a WAY better time!”
Patience will indeed be a virtue—and an asset, when faced with the lines for the food trucks and portable potties, the constant infringement of personal space, and, with so many novices unspooling their lines, certain drone-like kites. “It was fun but next year I will definitely take a beach umbrella as a shield for the out-of-control kites,” Carmela S. wrote. “Bring a helmet!!” Jeff S. added. “I must [have] gotten whacked like 3 or 4 times, right in mid-sentence. I think it was funny [only] because I had been throwing down some pinot grigio in a box all afternoon (4-pack travel size [is] perfect for the park!!)” Wait a second. Did Jeff S. mention something about wine? “Technically there is no drinking in the park,” Steve H. wrote. “Maybe walk over to one of the restaurants near the park to kick back a few before letting out your inner child and playing with a kite.”
Alas, if crowds aren’t your thing, there are other ways to appreciate the giant kite rodeo. “One of the best views you can get is in the morning, right when the festival kicks off,” Beth D. wrote. “Drive over the lake on Mopac and just look to the right [or left, if you’re going southbound]. With our gorgeous downtown skyline in the background, the lake adjacent, and a sky speckled with kites, it’s one of the most endearing moments I’ve had in this city and I look forward to it every year.”
Zilker Park, March 1, 10 a.m., abckitefestival.com
What’s the Big Idea?
Coming up with ideas is easy. Acting on them is hard. But that’s the goal of the inaugural “For the City: The Dallas Festival of Ideas,” a two-day brainstorming session on the shape of things to come. “I think people would generally agree that, as teacher and writer Richard Weaver said long ago, ‘ideas have consequences,’ and we believe that cities are where the best ideas come to light,” said Larry Allums, director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, who founded an earlier iteration of the festival back in 2008. To that end, this year’s event, produced in partnership with the Dallas Morning News, has an “action phase” for the bounty of ideas generated, with the first set of “tangible” deliverables due at the bigBANG! conference at Paul Quinn College, in October. For a fresh perspective, the conference has recruited out-of-towners the likes of the Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose essay “The Case for Reparations” was considered one of the finest pieces of journalism in 2014, and Vishaan Chakrabarti, formerly the director of the New York Department of City Planning, where he oversaw the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11. These along with three other non-Texans will steer five tracks of discussion among Dallas thought-leaders, looking into the “Physical City,” the “Cultural City,” the “Innovative City,” the “Political City,” and the “Educated City.”
Various locations, Feb. 27 and 28, thedallasfestival.com
Picasso Sports a Weave
Thirty years ago, in 1985, Ann Rockefeller, daughter of power broker Nelson Rockefeller, donated much of her father’s vast Mexican folk art collection to the San Antonio Museum of Art, who in turned established the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art. In concert with this anniversary is the exhibition “Nelson Rockefeller’s Picassos: Tapestries Commissioned for Kykuit.” From the fifties through seventies, Rockefeller enlisted the French artist Jacqueline de la Baume Dürrbach to handweave eighteen tapestries, some as large as nine feet by twelve feet, depicting iconic Picasso paintings. This was done in collaboration with Picasso, who helped choose the yarns and the colors. It was a way to create versions of his work that could be more easily transported, and more widely appreciated, than the originals. The exhibit, which closes March 8, features fourteen of the eighteen tapestries, including Cubist touchstones such as Night Fishing at Antibes, Three Musicians, and Interior With Girl Drawing—all based on paintings in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. Complement a viewing with a talk Friday night by Cynthia Altman, curator at Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate in the Hudson River Valley, where the tapestries normally reside.
San Antonio Museum of Art, Feb. 27, 6 p.m., samuseum.org
Here Comes the Sun
Afrofuturism is the exploration of the African diaspora through the prism of science fiction. Think some of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art or the writing of Octavia Butler. Cauleen Smith, a multimedia artist and former professor at the University of Texas at Austin, will delve into the genre this weekend with an artist talk on Friday preceding Saturday’s screening of Black Utopia LP. This ninety-minute film melds together some eight hundred 35mm slides of images culled from occult, astronomical, and historical sources with a double vinyl LP of lectures and performances by Sun Ra, the jazz composer who, along with his “Arkestra,” or orchestra, donned costumes inspired by Egyptian symbolism and played “free improvisation.”. “It’s more about the psychogeography of Chicago as it relates to American music, about improvisational music, about radicality in Chicago’s working classes, and about how Sun Ra was able to tap into that in the process of becoming Sun Ra,” Smith told Bomb magazine in 2011.
Eldorado Ballroom, Feb. 27 and 28, 7 p.m., aurorapictureshow.org
Mike McCarthy is probably the most important Austin music producer of the twenty-first century, defining the sounds of bands like And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Heartless Bastards, White Denim, Patty Griffin, and Spoon. In celebration of his fiftieth birthday, select members of these bands will host “Mike McCarthy’s Birthday: A Celebration of the Wizard,” with Spoon frontman Britt Daniels performing as Britt & the Sweet Daniels.
C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, March 1, 9 p.m., cboysheartnsoul.com
In the exhibit “Tin Toys & Raw Realities,” the Fort Worth artist John Hartley polishes up his dinged-up metal toy soldiers, Batman and Robin figurines, and miniature cars, motorcycles, and planes, rendering them as brilliant paintings that reveal something darker.
Tyler Museum of Art, March 1 to June 28, tylermuseum.org