Norma Ramirez' new work is featured at this year's annual Art in the 'Hood.
The annual Southtown fundraiser and CAM event, Art in the 'Hood, takes a pitstop in a warehouse down by the river

On the wrong side of the river, thirsty mosquitos fill the air outside a corrugated metal warehouse. Rusty trains move by slowly, with a delibrate dignity aquired with age. Patchy grass fights the dirt for dominance, and the atmosphere heaves with humidty from the nearby riverbanks. The number 357 has been hastily scrawled on the exterior of buiding - the only clue that this seemingly-abandoned industrial castoff is the site of the Big Tex Grain Mill.

Art in the 'Hood's current location has some people wondering: Is the annual Southtown event really even in the 'Hood? Technically, the newly minted executive director of the Southtown Mainstreet Alliance posits, the warehouse is across the river - but those kind of restrictive definitions would leave Blue Star out of the loop too. SMA Executive Director Vincent Martinez, appointed to his position only last week, explains that planning this year ran a little behind - nearly three months: "We're all impressed that it happened this quickly." But the member board of nearly 30 members, which struggled to put together the event as they held down jobs and lives of their own, was determined to carry on the tradition.

6-11pm Friday, July 4
Big Tex Grain Mill
401 Blue Star, #357
Inside the warehouse, volunteers from all walks of life painstakingly transport the art that has been piling up in an adajcent silo and the Southtown office. Sophomoric charcoal nudes abut bejeweled images of the Virgin Mary, and a plaster detail of a finger is placed across the table from a black-and-white photograph of a couple turning to walk in opposite directions across the street - each with a firm grip on the suitcase suspended like taffy between them. Almost anyone with a tie to Southtown is eligible to show in this community-oriented event, and the generous folks at Southtown have even let a few Austiners slide by. First-timers' work abounds, and those lucky enough to sell a piece will receive a 75 percent of the sale price - much more than the standard gallery commission grants an artist. Although there will be many artists of note at the high-profile event, Martinez maintains that Art in the 'Hood is primarily about promoting the Southtown community as a whole: "We prefer to highlight the starving guy at the Stop'n'Go."

Outside the Grain Mill, a cool, throaty breeze tickles the outcroppings of the building - a small indication of the thunderstorm scheduled to hit on Friday, July 4. This year's theme, "Some Like It Hot," will doubtlessly be demonstrated inside the muggy building - as damp First-Fridayers pile in to stay dry. •


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