Austin creatives memorialize winter storm experiences in art collections


The Winter Storm Project is an anthology comprising accounts of Winter Storm Uri, as told by Austin creatives. (Courtesy: Winter Storm Project)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been nearly nine months since February’s historic winter storm led to subfreezing temperatures, unprecedented power outages and water loss in Texas. Now, a group of Austin creatives are working to memorialize their experiences through the power of the written word.

The Winter Storm Project is an art anthology that will incorporate poetry, photography, essays and other artistic accounts of the winter storm from Texans’ firsthand perspective. KB Brookins, creative lead for the project, said they were compelled to establish this process as a means of processing the trauma Texans experienced.

“I didn’t feel like I had a chance in my work life, or personal life even, to kind of grieve what that was, or process what that was in a productive way,” they said. “So art, for me, has always been a way to process the thing and also a way to chronicle times in history.”

After the winter storm, Brookins said they began hosting virtual check-ins with friends who were also navigating their experiences during the storm. When Austin Mutual Aid started offering grant funding cycles in the spring, they brainstormed the concept with the city’s Office of Sustainability, which was receptive to the project.

Gillian Kümm serves as project assistant with the anthology and said there are still a lot of emotions and grief affiliated with that experience. Given the storm’s timing before the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, they navigated the storm alone, accompanied by their dog.

While they are still weighing whether to add their voice and perspective to the anthology, they added the project serves as a means of holding legislative leaders responsible for the storm and its effects on Texans.

“We want to inspire a dialogue about climate change, and what we’re going to do,” Kümm said.

To continue those conversations on climate change, they added 100% of proceeds from the anthology will be split between climate and community justice-centered initiatives PODER, Basta Austin and Go Austin/Vamos Austin.

“When I can create art about something, then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘okay, this has been let go from my body.'”

KB Brookins, creative lead, winter storm project

With this project, both said it’s a balancing act of acknowledging the experiences Austinites endured during the storm and holding leaders accountable, while also being able to constructively navigate that grief and move forward.

“When I can create art about something, then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Okay, this has been let go from my body,'” Brookins said. “I feel like I can think better. I feel like this is not something that’s just in my head anymore, and that can feel really freeing.”

The Winter Storm Project will accept submissions through Dec. 15. For more information about the project, click here.

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