Day Off: Austin Wahl

In the throes of summer things really start to pick up in little old Portland. People wake up, get out, and do amazing work out in our community. One of our old gold Stumptowners, Austin Wahl, used this hot summer energy to level up his creative side-project and organize his first art show

Coinciding with June’s Pride celebrations, QT’s: A Queer Type Show was “queer run and queer powered”. The exhibit featured the work of Austin, Heldáy de la Cruz, and Evan Bailey. Located in a bustling pocket of Northeast Portland at Half Court Studio, the artists transformed the whole room in to an installation that blended the physical and digital. We stopped by the opening reception on June 16th, and were so stoked to see the room packed full of Stumptown family and creative Portlanders present to cheer on some of our favorite folks. Proceeds from the sale of their work went to The Q Center, a local non-profit organization and community center that provides a safe space to support and celebrate LGBTQ folks.

We sat down with Austin to learn a bit more about his work and how he drew inspiration for this project.

Stumptown:  You’ve been creating posters and digital art for us for years. What's your art story? It seems like everyone has that person who first inspires you to become a creator — is that true for you? 

Austin Wahl: I've been drawing since I could hold a pencil. I've always been a fascinated person and from early on I would spend hours drawing what fascinated me - volcanoes were a big hit when I was a kid. I took as many art classes as I could in high school, and as my college career took shape I was studying environmental biology but  ended up adding painting as a second major. Long story short, I can't remember a time that I didn't create. I know no other way.  

Stumptown: How did painting lead you to typography? Do you still work with other mediums?

Austin Wahl: Graphite and charcoal were my first loves. In college, I worked with mostly oils and watercolors. I've always adapted my medium to my circumstances -  when I don't have room to paint I draw and when I can’t do either I find something else to use. When I lived in Coupeville, Washington I worked for a ceramist in exchange for free classes. Digital art is new to me, actually. I've recently been learning how to use the tools and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. What I end up creating is less important to me than the process of continuing to create. 

Stumptown: What inspired you to organize your show? 

Austin Wahl: It happened really organically, actually. My friend and fellow artist Heldáy de la Cruz saw a piece I created on Instagram of the word “Queer”. We've been wanting to collaborate more, and he saw the potential for an interesting project. Evan Bailey, a mutual friend and designer, was an obvious choice to add to the mix. We organized our show with a lot of intention — we wanted to do something different for Pride, and have an opportunity to give back to our community here in Portland.

Stumptown: You’ve been with Stumptown for about 5 years now, and we’ve been loving every moment of it — what’s your coffee story? 

Austin Wahl: I started in coffee when I lived in Coupeville with my friend Emily (Hi Emily! She works for Stumptown too). Then while living in the Puget Sound area I worked for a number of Stumptown accounts, before making my way to Portland and snagging my role at the Ace Hotel location 5 years ago

Stumptown: You always have this incredible energy when you’re on the job at the Ace cafe — do you have any favorite stories from the shop to share?

Austin Wahl: I don't consider myself much of a fangirl, but Laura Dern came in to get coffee before the premiere of Wild. If you’re someone that knows me even a little, you’ll see that I find a way to quote Jurassic Park in some way literally every day —  It took all I had not to make a fool of myself but I'm sure my smile said it all.  

Stumptown: You were a recipient of Stumptown’s new Passion Project, a program that provides grants to employees to help them pursue their interests outside of work. How did that play a role in the production of QT’s?

Austin Wahl: We had planned the show almost fully before I knew that I had received the Passion Project grant, so it was a real leap of faith that we would end up getting it funded. It was such an amazing feeling to have the company I work for support me in that way! It relieved the stress and noise that can surround the logistics of putting on a show and allowed us to dive into the art and have a wonderful and inclusive party! It was a total collaboration in pulling off this show, and the money from the Passion Project was truly a huge reason for the success of the event! 

Stumptown: What's next for you?

Austin Wahl: We are looking at continuing the show, moving it to more galleries and different applications. I couldn't be more stoked to continue to work with these two!

Stumptown: That’s amazing! Alright, last question - what's your favorite place to have a cup of coffee?

Austin Wahl: P's and Q's Market truly has a soft spot in my heart, sitting on the cafe tables out front with a mug and an egg sandwich on the first sunny day of the spring is truly spiritual. 

Thank you Austin! We love having you be part of the team, and are so excited to see you continue to thrive as an artist.