Magazine article Southwest Art

Worth the Drive

Magazine article Southwest Art

Worth the Drive

Article excerpt

The biggest state in the lower 48 has personality to match. It's easy to love Texans. First, they're a diverse bunch; second, they never take themselves or life too seriously; and third, they always tell it like it is-which is why, when some Austin chums declared Fredericksburg, TX, a fun art town and getaway, I was ready to investigate.

Located on U.S. Highway 290, Fredericksburg is roughly 70 miles west of Austin and 70 miles north of San Antonio. The town is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, a picturesque region and mostly a well-kept secret until local Lyndon Johnson became president in 1963. Impatient with D.C. formality, the Johnsons frequently escaped to their Hill Country ranch-with cabinet members in tow-to do business on lawn chairs over barbecue. Today, the humble white clapboard home (complete with airstrip) known as the former Texas White House is a landmark between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

Established by German immigrants in 1846, Fredericksburg has an ambience that is more European than western with its biergartens, German food, and Victorian architecture. Each weekend, as many as 30,000 people flood this town of 7,700-primarily from nearby cities like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, although sometimes from faraway places as well.

"Fifteen to 20 percent of our sales are not on this continent, and that's a pretty healthy thing for podunk little Fredericksburg, Texas," says Tim Taylor, owner of Whistle Pik Galleries. "I have an employee who is fluent in German and Spanish, and I do not know a weekend where she did not use one or the other. That is kind of amazing to me. I've found that the Japanese love western art and Europeans love G. Harvey sculptures and David Leffel still lifes."

Travelers also come for the bed and breakfasts. Fredericksburg has as many as Santa Fe has art galleries, which is more than 300! …

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