How The Cathedral Creates Community for Austin’s Emerging Female Artists
This refurbished 1930s church has become an inclusive, women-run gallery and popular event space
By Meher Qazilbash
The idea for The Cathedral came with the desire to uplift underrepresented artists. Founder Monica Ceniceros, an accomplished painter herself, noticed a lack of opportunities for younger women artists in the Austin art scene and decided to change this by putting on all-women art shows. Eventually, the series of very popular pop-up shows led to the creation of The Cathedral.
The Cathedral’s name pays tribute to the space’s original existence as a historic church. Now it functions as an art gallery, boutique, co-working space for artists and an event venue. By day, artists gather to work in a peaceful and supportive environment with natural light pouring through the gothic-inspired windows. By night, a plethora of entrancing events take place including intimate music shows, ballet performances, pop-up dinners, unique art shows and more. While these events take place, visitors can treat themselves to the open bar, view the artwork that ornaments the walls and tables, and purchase pieces if they please.
Ceniceros created this unconventional gallery setting for artists to display their work, as she hoped to make art more inviting to the public.
“The shows I was doing at the time, for example, were just not very approachable or fun for spectators that were coming in,” says Ceniceros. “The whole idea was to make art celebrated again, and on top of that, giving women artists more exposure and recognition.”
Accessibility plays a huge role in the philosophy of The Cathedral. Not only are event prices affordable, the energy of the space strays from the typical intimidating gallery setting and instead encourages community engagement.
“When you feel more comfortable in an environment, you are able to truly connect with the art and the artists. You’re able to ask questions without feeling like everyone in the room can hear you or worrying if you’re asking the right question or not. People have left our shows feeling really inspired just being able to talk to our artists and learn about their process, in a party-like atmosphere, rather than having it be so serious.”
Creating a welcoming atmosphere for artists is also a priority — providing them with a judgement-free network of emerging women artists that challenge, inspire and guide each other. All experience levels are welcome, giving talented and driven new artists a space to grow alongside creative people that are further into their career. The community is incredibly valuable in terms of giving a support system that may not have otherwise existed for emerging female talent in Austin.
When it comes to giving advice to other Austin creatives, Ceniceros urges them to speak with other artists in their field and take advantage of living in the digital age.
“Artists have a lot more flexibility to be independent entrepreneurs and not have to rely on galleries to make a living,” she explains. “Really work on connecting with the right people and also building your brand through social media … it’s so important to be around people who are going through the same thing that you’re going through for advice and just to support each other and keep each other inspired.”
With each of its programs and activities, The Cathedral cheers on Austin artists and invites us all to join in.