Photo essay: Surveying South Congress

Spend a day at SoCo for the food, music and art

By Anna McClellan, McCallum High School

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South Congress, also known as SoCo to local Austinites, is home to Amy’s Ice Creams, Homeslice Pizza, and many other local hotspots. Whether you walk, drive, bike or scooter, SoCo is definitely worth a visit.

BUILDING UP AND OUT- South Congress leads right up to the Capitol. This means that whether you are renting scooters and bikes, driving, or walking, you are bound to get a great view of the ever-growing Austin Skyline. One of the tallest and most well known is Frost Bank tower, and the tallest building is The Independent, reaching up to around 690 feet.

CREATIVE CULTURE- It’s no surprise that art is a huge deal in Austin. Whether you’re looking at paintings downtown at the Blanton, or exploring one of Austin’s many live music fests, you’re bound to be satisfied one way or another. Local street musicians can be found up and down Soco, and each and every one of them is different. Above, street musician Rob Cook, also known as the “Washboard Tie Guy” as he uses a tie made from washboard as part of his music. “I’ve been here [in Austin] for about two years, and before that was traveling the country, doing some music festivals,” Cook said. “It’s [Austin’s] got a great vibe, it’s got a up-and-coming Nashville kind of vibe, I love it.” You can check out Cook’s music, upcoming appearances, and more on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, by following @washboardtieguy or by simply searching up “Washboard Tie Guy”.

UP AND DOWN- as people walk up and down Soco past local street artist Rob Cook, he drums and plays away going up and down on his Washboard Tie. After traveling across the country from East to West, Cook and his wife ended up in Austin a couple years ago, and have been here ever since.  “I’ve been street performing for a while and I’ve played stages big and small, but the street will always be its own thing,” Cook said. “There’s no stage between you and the audience, it’s very one on one, very personal.”

ELECTRIC ART- Not only is the professional art around Austin a big deal, there is plenty of free art down the streets. In fact, you will likely see Power Boxes covered with it. In this case, people have them covered with stickers, flyers, and a picture of a World War One worker. These boxes have also been covered with celebrity faces, local icons, and graffiti.

I LOVE AUSTIN SO MUCH- On South Congress, you can go by all sorts of Local hotspots, including the “I love you so much” wall by Joe’s Coffee. Since it was spray painted on the wall in 2010, there have been many different variations created. In this case, someone took the “Bumble BFF” logo, and substituted it in for the “you.” There are many other murals along the Austin streets, like the “Hi how are you” frog, or the quite popular “Greetings from Austin, Capitol of Texas.”

MUSIC IS OUR JOB- Many street musicians around Austin play for fun, but for most it’s their only way of income. They will ask you for a tip, usually if you take their picture. Local street musician James Anthony Johnson was not available for an interview at the time, but you can check out some of his music online, and of course you can always go to South Congress and find him outside of the Soco Cafe.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE- No matter who you are or where you go along South Congress, you will find all sorts of handmade goods. You can find soaps, like above, jewelry, artwork, and all sorts of little gifts.

WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM- Amy’s Ice Creams is a huge hit on South Congress, even when it’s 40 degrees outside. They always have a variety of flavors, and you can choose your own “crush’ns” to go in or on your ice cream. They also have seasonal flavors and treats. Some people mix it up every time they go, and others stick to one thing. “I usually get the Mexican Vanilla with sprinkles,” said local Austinite Lauryn, shown on left.

CUP O’ JO’S- Local coffee spot, and home to the “i love you so much wall”, Jo’s Coffee  is an Austin Favorite. Founded back in 1999, Jo’s serves hot and cold drinks, as well as a variety of food. The line can sometimes get long, but nearly all Austinites say that it is worth the wait.

YOU’VE BEEN SERVED- Amy’s Ice Creams can be found at locations throughout Austin but whichever location you choose, whether it be on Burnet, South Congress, the Arbouretum, or elsewhere, you are bound to be greeted with smiles and fun. Amy’s is known for their amazing tricks when making their ice cream, and every year they host the “Trick Olympics” where the best scoops (ice cream servers) compete against each other to see who can show off the most ice cream scooping skill.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on April 9, 2019.