At times Austin comes across, even with its numerous campaigns to keep it local, as a commercial city. There are tons of shops, music festivals, bars, restaurants, and venues to cater to the needs of the Live Music Capital of the World. And yet, considering the scope and history of living in the capital, several cultural points are lacking compared to the business ventures that are abound within city limits. Austin does not have the most notable of art galleries, sought out opera performances, or theaters pulling in tourists. The cultural options it does have are respectable, intimate niche markets for fall to the wayside when promoting the X Games or SXSW. There are experiences to be had that resonant the soul but they have to be sought out. Not all enlightenment can be found in the bottom of a glass while speaking with strangers or pressed against like-minded bodies in front of an indie god. </p.

On the east side, Salvage Vanguard Theatre makes an impact. Off of Manor, this non-profit space does not limit itself in the ways that they can impact the city. If it can be called art, then they want it. Like NPR and PBS, it is through local contributors, rentals of their space, volunteers, and sales from their concessions that allow them to thrive. Around for over twenty years with funding from the city of Austin (among others) they offer their walls over to art work, plays, musicals, concerts, classes, and even yoga. People who love yoga love the ability to do it anywhere, kind of like nudists.

The building is a converted warehouse as weathered and colorful as its patrons. Any volunteers looking to donate materials and time could improve on the bathroom doors. In the ladies they have been handled to the point where the latches are hanging by a screw. Even with the occasional dent, any urge that come over are to handle the space with tenderness. Once through the doors, the main space where concessions are sold, displays several bulletin boards and chalkboards for upcoming events. The floor is concrete and the walls left bare for visiting exhibits. Inside the theater productions are intimate. The theater seating is raised and has an extra row or two onto the stage floor. Those who want to interact with the production can get up close and personal or move back and look down without losing focus. It does not take hundreds to make it a full house, but there is better sense of comradeship being close to strangers and the performers watching passion in action. Unlike other venues, there is no worries that what you will be seeing will be from the back of the crowd through a rolling wave of heads hoping that the sound will make your forget the smell of the man ahead of you dandruff shampoo.

The themes of the shows have an edge and do not appeal to the masses. These are political pieces, feminists stories, gay embracing tales, and sometimes abrasive art. Subjects discussed can make some feel uncomfortable. Art of any kind should leave the observer questioning and feeling. I love pop art as much as the next person, but it tends to be about the placement on the wall and in the esteem of visitors then the placement it has to the possessor. The concessions sold in order to generate money for the collectives and productions companies are pricy, but for a cause. They are done tongue in cheek with little bits to tie the experience together. Are you in the mood for Corn Nuts while watching Heathers the Musical or how about a commemorative wine with a label featuring a character? Proceeds through tickets go back to the location and they use a ticket vendor that donates to charities.

Salvage Vanguard Theatre has a full schedule waiting for your support and enthusiasm. If looking for a way to express those untouched artistic or theater roots, they are a great opportunity to explore those urges. Doctah Mistah Productions is running two musicals through July 11th of Heathers and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There is yoga every Saturday and Tuesday. Monthly residencies like Lucky Chaos and open mic by the name of No Shame Theatre (plus many more) could enthrall you so much that you will find yourself there three times a week. The concept may seem pulled together, but the result is unique. There is a community waiting to infuse your soul with enough art to give meaning to your night life outside of the east side.

A.J. Whitaker

A.J. Whitaker is from San Antonio who decided to make it big in Austin. Every day she curses the traffic and all the other people who had the same idea to move. When she is not passing judgment on businesses she is submitting fiction to literary journals. Follow her success and lack of it, on her personal blog