by Margie Eades
If you have seen a group of excited people painting on giant 6 x 8.5 ft. canvases in various high-traffic locations around Austin, you have likely witnessed the magic of Big Ass Canvas (BAC) in action. BAC was founded earlier this year by two incredibly passionate and energetic young men, Travis Huse and Zach Horvath. Their idea is to build a large canvas, put it in a public place with some paint and brushes, encourage passers-by to paint, and see what happens. While it might seem simple in principle, BAC is implemented with a distinct purpose: “to encourage community access to the creative process” while promoting local community organizations and causes like the youth mentorship program, Explore Austin, and the Seton Healthcare Family’s pledge to upgrade Austin’s University Medical Center Brackenridge.
Zach, an Austin native, and Travis, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, met through CouchSurfing, a popular social network for backpackers and travelers all around the world. Sharing a penchant for helping people and making new friends, the two came up with the idea for BAC and set up their first blank canvas on The Drag (Guadalupe St. across from UT campus) in May of 2012.
I met the boys nearly ten color-filled canvases later at the 101X Summer Cinema Series at Central Market North Lamar, then caught up with them again at their “Big Ass Party” at Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street, a fundraiser for Explore Austin. Both Travis and Zach are outgoing and charismatic and, as evidenced by the defining characteristics of their artistic social experiment, love learning and sharing ideas with people.
Zach is an ambitious entrepreneur (ZCLOCO, Action Catalyst) who has chosen an unconventional educational and career path. Within a matter of days he will be departing on an open-ended trip to Europe with hopes of exploring both the world and himself. If you want to catch Zach before he leaves, you will probably find him wearing a dress shirt and shorts, a tie tucked into his shirt (so it doesn’t get paint on it, of course) and some red rubber boots or other funky accessory.
Lean and tall, Travis is just as hard to miss. He’ll be manning BAC for the rest of the summer so be on the lookout for his signature bowtie and thick-rimmed spectacles. Travis is an Austin transplant, but spend one minute talking with him and you will realize that his enthusiasm for inspiring and connecting the Austin community comes from the heart.
Their outlook on life and their determination – and ability – to make a difference in the world is refreshing.
Check out my short interview with the men of BAC as well as a video about their project below:
Do you have any events planned for selling the canvases?
Zach: We are still working on that. It would be great to have a gallery event where we could invite people to check out the artwork and bid on the canvases.
Travis: Currently we are marketing the canvases privately but haven’t sold any yet. However, we recently obtained permission to display the canvases in the downtown 2nd Street District which will provide exposure to people who support the arts and local Austin organizations. (Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in purchasing a canvas).
Have you had any negative reactions to BAC’s name? I’ve seen children working on the canvases and wonder if their parents have any problem with the word “Ass”.
Z: We’ve had one or two negative responses, but for the most part our name and tagline are a hit.
You will be at Summer Cinema and Blues On the Green throughout the summer – then what?
T: BAC will continue to do events all summer and is continually gaining recognition, including press from KUT News [link] and Study Breaks Magazine. Many organizations have expressed an interest in having BAC at their events to cross-promote and raise awareness for different projects. We love meeting other people who want to pool resources to achieve something awesome in Austin and look forward to seeing where BAC takes us.
Why did you specifically choose to support Explore Austin and Seton’s Brackenridge?
Z: We chose Explore Austin because we are both adventurous people who want to encourage kids to experience their world in new ways. It just seemed to fit when we were looking for an organization to support. Brackenridge and Seton chose us after they saw what we were doing with BAC.
It is always great to see people pursuing their own projects rather than falling into the traditional school and work routine - but it is not always easy to take the unconventional road. What are your musings on entrepreneurial life?
T: We decided to implement BAC because it was something we could get excited about even though it is a struggle to make it financially sustainable in the short-term. These passion projects are a way to do what you love even when it doesn’t fit in the confines of the traditional 40 hour workweek formula.
Z: If you look around and see that you are walking in the same direction as a huge mob of people, run the other direction. Nothing good happens when the crowd is doing the same thing. It’s always good to be your own person, to take risks, to embrace the unknown, and to break a few rules in order to make a change in the world.
What are your personal aspirations for the future?
Z: I want to a life that allows me personal autonomy while creating a product or running a business that enables me to make a difference in the world. I want to do cool stuff with cool people and inspire others to do the same, to break out and explore and be themselves and not be boring “normal” people.
T: It’s important to me to be doing something I love. Austin is a place where people support homegrown efforts and it’s a great place to be creative and meet creative types. These attributes combine to make a recipe for a strong community. That is the kind of world I want to contribute to.
UPCOMING EVENTS & LINKS:
101X Summer Cinema Series – Free Movies at Central Market N. Lamar!
Wednesday, June 6: Mean Girls
Wednesday, June 20: Drop Dead Fred
Tuesday, July 3: Captain America
Wednesday, July 18: Casino Royale
Wednesday, August 1: Wayne’s World
Remember your blankets, lawn chairs and an appetite. Summer Cinema will have $2.50 Blue Moons and great food from Central Market. Movies start at sun down. Thank you to our amazing sponsors who make this event possible!
93.3 KGSR Blues on the Green – Free Shows at Zilker Park!
KGSR’s Blues on the Green returns to Zilker Park for it’s 22nd season!
As Austin’s largest FREE concert series KGSR’s Blues on the Green is consistently ranked as a top annual entertainment event and has become a staple of the Austin lifestyle and a very casual and comfortable experience. JOIN THE BLUES ON THE GREEN TEXT ALERT CLUB – text “BLUES” to 43981 to be the first to learn about this years show line-up!EVENT DATES:
May 30th – Charlie Mars w/ Max Gomez opening
June 13th – Rhett Miller w/ Wheeler Brothers opening
June 27th – Ben Kweller w/ Amy Cook opening
July 11th – BoDeans
July 25th – Marci Ball w/ Nakia opening
August 8th – TBA
BIG ASS CANVAS
Follow Zach’s trip to Europe: http://www.zcloco.com/
- This is not Medium Ass Canvas, It’s Big Ass Canvas: A Look Back on our First Sponsorship (ourpangea.wordpress.com)