• Caitlin Gomez

East Side Gets A Little Pick Me Up

The “Hearts of the East Side” project consists of 11 different artists and their rendition of a steel heart. The installations sit along Cesar Chavez St. and represent a variety of meaning. Some hearts dive deeper into the history and culture of the east side, while some may represent personal experiences artists have had with this side of town. Each one certainly embodies the admiration these artists have for East Austin.

Bale Creek Allen has lived in Austin since the early nineties. He’s opened galleries in the city over the years, and currently operates BCA Gallery on Austin’s east side.

Allen’s heart design, “A Little Pick Me Up,” sits outside its sponsor, Dovetail Tattoo, at 1703 E César Chávez St.

“The heart is in front of two great east Austin establishments,” Allen said. “Dovetail has a great reputation in the area, and Las Cazuelas is one of the best late-night taco bars in the area.”

Allen originally joined the project when he was approached by close friend, Selena Sounders. They have worked together in the past on several similar projects that were focused on the community and giving back to local residents.

The outline of Allen’s heart artwork is constructed out of steel. The heart itself is made up of crushed and flattened cans, ranging in brands from Bud Light to Coca Cola.

Inspiration for “A Little Pick Me Up” was born from Allen’s desire to create a piece that is both environmentally friendly and relatable to its audience.

“People – like this gentleman – or anyone who’s walking the streets can relate to this,” Allen remarked as a passerby strolled down the sidewalk next to the heart installation.

A unique aspect of Allen’s design that many don’t recognize upon first glance is that each side of the heart is different. One side contains flattened cans, while the other holds cans in pristine condition. Allen got the cans from a local recycling center.

“There were cans that were smashed, cans that weren’t,” Allen recalled. “I just grabbed whatever they gave me and dumped them out. They were kind of half and half.”

While his typical work consists of shows in galleries, exhibitions in museums, at universities, and for private collectors, Allen was pleased with the final outcome.

“I’m actually pretty proud of this. Usually I don’t do commission type things,” he said. “I just do my own bodies of work and put them out in the universe – it’s a love it or leave it kind of mentality. But I took this one on knowing where it was going to be, and I thought it would be pretty special.”

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