The phone call arrived just before noon and just before my plans for getting the day got the call for action.
Rachel Koper was contacting the four folks who put together Radical Nautical – Ian Shults, Kevin Peakes, Kevin Tijernia and myself – and asking that we attend the Austin Critics’ Table Awards that night.
I postponed a couple classes, and nervously prepared myself for an evening surrounded by theater folks, critics, and various members of Austin’s art elite.
Of course, once we arrived at the Cap City Comedy Club, I made myself comfortable by ordering a shot and a drink, and made sure the drinks kept coming. Ian and I soon ran into Rachelle, and I painted myself into a corner when I offered to accept an award for my friend David Ohlerking and hisAustin Figurative Gallery. With the festivities underway, I kept drinking and joking with my co-curators about the wonderful speeches I’d give.
The awards began with the new entries into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame. The folks behind the recently reopened Long Center all collected their awards and gave speeches. During the speech for the architect of the Long Center, Jean Clair Van Rizyn told the crowd that, “I can assure you, architects make just as much money as artists.” All of the artists around me nearly choked on that line and it was a running joke through the rest of the night.
Finally, after a few more drinks, it was time for our category – Best Group Show – to be announced. We won and the four of us met Rachel on stage. We exchanged hugs, grabbed the impressive award (seen below), and as we were about to walk offstage, Rachel looked at me and pointed towards the microphone. I looked back at the rest of the jurors, and they waited patiently for my words. Flustered, I lost most of my train of thought and bitter asides I was going to toss into the crowd, and meekly thanked all of the artists who entered and showed, the other curators, and the critics.
Back at the table, we handed about the certificate, laughed a bunch, and I prepared mentally for the speech I was about to give on David’s behalf by giving him a call and checking in on his health. When Rachel got onstage to present the award, she mentioned how David couldn’t be here because of a sickness, and as it seemed like my moment in the sun would pass, she quickly tacked on a, ‘but Schliefke will accept the award on his behalf’. I rose and snaked through the seats to deliver this speech:
“David Ohlerking can’t be here tonight, he was in the hospital earlier today, but he’s home and doing well. I talked with him earlier, but before I get to his thank yous, I wanted to say if you haven’t been to the Austin Figurative Gallery, you should know its a vital part of the Austin arts scene, and its really due to David’s energy. It’s not a trendy East Side gallery, nor is it a fancy Museum, it’s just a bunch of real artists working constantly, showing regularly, and failing a lot, but they also have moments when the succeed brilliantly.
I’m not a doctor, I’m an artist, but I believe the reason David can’t be here tonight is because of dysentery. I won’t go into the symptoms or gory details, but I can assure you again he is fine. Recently, he moved his studio and gallery into a horse barn, on the East Side, without a bathroom. I’m sure a lot of architects in attendance can sympathize with the life of poverty David is living.
David did want to thank the critics for the recognition, and mostly, would like to thank Nathan Jensen, whose Arthive studio/gallery concept inspired David to put together a studio and gallery space like this.
Thanks again and good night.”