Blue Genie Art: Strength in Numbers

Written by Dana Younger

1999 group shot of lots of Genies. Photo courtesy of Dana Yonger.As a founding member, I was honored when Blue Genie Art became a 2014 inductee into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame alongside Big Medium and Rude Mechanicals. The theme for this years’ inductees was collaborative organizations. The idea of collaboration got me thinking about all the support that allows Blue Genie to thrive.

What is now known as Blue Genie Art started in the late 90’s when I had a business called Black Mountain Art with current Genie, Kevin Collins. Kevin and I started out making gargoyles and selling them on the drag at the Renaissance Market. The gargoyles lead to us offering mold-making services for various art projects. Fueled by an interest in making stuff we followed our noses to bigger and bigger projects including some casting for the at Barton Warnock in Lajitas and a replica of Jolly Jack for Sea Island Shrimp House. Artists and businesses alike put their trust in us to make things. We learned piles of things along the way.

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At that time Black Mountain Art also put on plays in collaboration with Ron Berry (fellow Cherrywood-ian and founder of Fusebox Festival), most notably The Visit. Too many artists to list by name participated in this and other adventures. It was a spectacular time and is memorialized in the Austin Chronicle article “A Mysteriously Happy Atmosphere” by John Spong.

As the Peter Pan era of Black Mountain wound down, we were fortunate to connect with artist Rory Skagen. For our first collaboration with Skagen were on some wild parade floats for Mardi Gras on 6th street. The collaboration was so successful we decided to start a new business. Rory had the big Blue Genie sculpture which he had made out of scrap foam and we all agreed that Blue Genie was a much better name than “Skagen, Younger and Collins”. So, Blue Genie was born in 1999.

After a brief stint at the Splinter Group warehouse, we took possession of an old Central Moving and Storage warehouse at 916 Springdale. We were really on the frontier of East Austin at the time. It has been amazing to watch progress march thru that area. From 1999-2009 I helped operate the fabrication portion of Blue Genie Art. Those years were a constant parade of fascinating people and projects. This article by Wayne Alan Brenner captures some highlights from the early Blue Genie era: “The Blue Genie Boys Take On ‘The Story of Texas’ for the New State History Museum.”

Along with helping artists and businesses realize their fabrication fantasies, Blue Genie also hosted events. The warehouse on Springdale has seen it all, from outrageous SXSW after parties, to a Halloween party complete with a haunted maze. After all those events one really stuck out and continues today, The Blue Genie Art Bazaar.
The Blue Genie Art Bazaar started out very innocently when one of our friends, Charles Randolph, an employee at the time, said, “Y’all should do a Christmas show!” We said, as was our standard practice, “OK.” We had no expectations; we basically hung some art on the walls and opened the doors for a weekend. It was quite a shock when people actually wanted to buy things. We had to pull out a spiral notebook to keep track of all the sales!

For 14 years now we’ve been launching artists into the New Year with sales at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar. We are happy to say that the event is still going strong. Although I had to leave the fabrication portion of the business in 2009 in favor of a job managing the Exhibit Shop for Texas Parks and Wildlife, I am still a partner in the Art Bazaar. Through that business I am able to keep in touch with the maker community in Austin and maintain that precious feeling that comes by doing cool things that help connect artists to patrons. The show is growing again this year by adding 30 more artists.

So, if you know any makers… https://bluegenieartbazaar.com

It is a real honor to know that Blue Genie is Hall of Fame material. We have the privilege of living in an ultra supportive and creative community. That very quality makes it possible for Blue Genie to exist and thrive. So, thanks to anyone who has supported us with your time, talent or treasure. Our strength in numbers comes from each of you.

One Response to Blue Genie Art: Strength in Numbers

  • Gavin says:

    Loved this Article, saw a post about Blue Genie on Yobored.com and Im getting excited to take part in this awesome Austin holiday tradition. 🙂

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