There are many different cultures that help to make Austin the wonderful and interesting place that it is. The melting pot that makes up Austin is dominated by Mexican, Latin, African, and a variety of Asian cultures, creating a city that is rich in music, theater, festivals, and food. And the great thing is, it’s fairly easy to access these amazing bits of culture, thanks to a variety of cultural centers and their programs. Considering that most of these programs are free and have offerings on various days of the week, there aren’t many excuses for not trying to learn more about your neighbors at these Austin culture centers.
Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center
Phone: 512.974.3772 | 600 Red River Street, Austin 78701
Mexican American and Latinx cultures come alive at the MACC, a gorgeous new facility in downtown Austin that “is dedicated to the preservation, creation, presentation, and promotion of the cultural arts of Mexican Americans and Latino cultures.” The center does this with exhibits on display at its two galleries (with tours available by request), collaborations with community partners, education programs, and events held throughout town. Concerts, comedy, film series, and more can be found regularly at the center, as can a variety of cultural arts classes and camps for kids and adults (learn more and register by calling 512.974.3785). The center even has a program specific to teen leadership in the arts that helps to empower youth in the community. Weekly programs include free yoga (en español) and zumba classes and a film program for seniors. On a monthly basis, families are invited to Sábados en Familia for bilingual story time, cultural arts programs, visual arts, and a free healthy lunch.
Mexic Arte Museum
Phone: 512.480.9373 | 419 Congress Avenue, Austin 78701As the official Mexican and Mexican American fine arts museum of Texas, Mexic Arte Museum hosts a variety of exhibitions, events, and a museum store with direct trade imports. To more completely enjoy the museum it offers guided tours, as well as downloadable gallery guides. Family days, held four times per year, open the museum up to the community for free to give families the opportunity to create their own art that reflects on their gallery experience.
Puerto Rican Cultural Center
Phone: 512.251.8122 | 701 Tillery Street, Austin 78702
The Puerto Rican Cultural Center offers classes and programs that give the community the chance to learn about Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taino culture, the only center like it in the region. Ongoing classes at the center mostly focus around dance and performance, specifically the Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance, as well as music and community theatre classes. These classes are open to all ages, with younger children participating with their families. In addition to classes, the PRCC also hosts events at the center, as well as bringing cultural elements to various events and festivals in the community.
For a more laid back way to learn about Puerto Rican culture, you can visit this Austin culture center every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon as they host Cafe y Amistad. Grab a cup of free Puerto Rican coffee and enjoy conversation and a display of cultural arts programs. They especially hope that this regular event is a place where community elders can gather for fellowship.
George Washington Carver Museum
Phone: 512.974.4926 | 1165 Angelina Street, Austin 78702
To learn more about African American and African Diaspora culture, visit The George Washington Carver Museum, Culture and Genealogy Center. In addition to museum tours, the Carver Museum offers special classes and programs. These include an after school dance infusion program that teaches students a variety of styles including jazz, contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, and multicultural dance. Other after school programs at the Carver Museum include acting and piano lessons, and the museum offers a variety of summer programs. In addition to these regular classes, the museum hosts regular events like film series, panel discussions, and adult dance classes. Their monthly First Saturdays event is also a wonderful opportunity to gain “insights on history, culture, and aesthetic expression of African Americans” in a free, family-friendly environment that includes a variety of programming including their Seeds to Scientists gardening program.
Phone: 512. 505.8738 | Central East Austin, borders: North of Manor Road, South of 7th Street, East of Airport Boulevard, West of IH-35
Six Square is more of a cultural epicenter than a physical cultural center (though it does contain the Carver Museum within). The name refers to the six square miles that made up what was formerly designated as the “Negro District.” The only state-designated black cultural district in Texas, Six Square “celebrates and preserves the great arts, culture and history of Central East Austin.” Within the district, key locales can be found including Huston-Tillotson, Down’s Field, Carver Complex, The Victory Grill, and the “We Rise” mural. The organization behind the district provides historic tours, hosts an art gallery, and leads various preservation and revitalization efforts. Taking a tour or volunteering to help with some of these efforts are great ways to learn about this important Austin district and its rich history
Asian American Culture Center
Phone: 512.336.5069 | 11713 Jollyville Road, Austin 78759
The Asian American Culture Center, “Where East meets West,” is a tremendous asset to its community, providing a variety of services to its participants. There are plenty of classes and experiences for all ages at the Asian American Culture Center. For adults there are language classes (Chinese and Japanese, with a class specifically for those traveling to China), cooking, art, and wellness classes. For children, this Austin culture center offers preschool and after-school programs, summer camps, and language lessons. In addition to regular classes, AACC helps play host to many events in the community, including the Harvest Moon Festival, Lunar New Year Celebration, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Dumpling Festival & Competition (yes, Austin has a dumpling festival!).
Xiang Yun Temple
Phone: 512.346.6789 | 6720 North Capital of Texas Highway, Austin 78731
The beautiful Xiang Yun Temple is a lovely place to learn about a variety of things important to Chinese culture. Of course, the tenets of Buddhism are taught here, but for those who aren’t interested in learning about religion there are also meditation courses, calligraphy, and more. There’s even a yoyo course for kids! In addition to the regular classes, the temple is host to a tea room that serves lunch during the week (except Mondays) and tea time on the weekends, with tea, snacks, and light vegetarian food.
Featured photo via Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center Facebook.