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Art + Advertising + Austin

“Untitled” by Chrys Grummert

When is advertising not advertising?

When it’s art.

This very cool Austin billboard caught my eye a few weeks ago. Each time I passed it, I wanted to know the story behind it. Today I finally visited the site, AustinArtBoards.org. Turns out there are ten pieces total, all the work of local artists and winners of a juried competition created by outdoor media company Reagan Advertising.

The Creative Director of Reagan’s Austin office, Adam Owen, says the idea for putting art on billboards came to him while working for a media company in the Southeast. When billboards weren’t being used, they typically left the space empty or posted public service ads that had “not-great creative.” He proposed featuring something more inspiring, and Art in the Air was born.

When he moved to Austin, he brought the idea with him. The Austin Art Boards call for entries in April 2011 generated 124 responses, “not bad for the first time,” according to Owen. The ten works that were selected are posted whenever and wherever a billboard is open, and will cycle throughout the city for as long as the vinyl billboard material lasts – probably up to five years.

Owen reports that although the boards haven’t directly generated business for Reagan, their sales team has heard plenty of positive comments from clients who think the project is cool and “perfect for Austin.” The 2012 call for entries will come this spring, and will be open to all local artists.

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