Written by Cameron Sandage, one of the founders of Afterhours.
Afterhours started back in 2015 when a group of roughly fifteen IBM Design designers came together to create a poster show in Austin. This group formed after it was announced that Artcrank, a traveling bicycle poster show was no longer going to be coming to Austin (or any of the other various cities across the United States.)
Artcrank was an event that a lot of us looked forward to — we enjoyed the ability to create a something that was outside of our normal 9-to-5 jobs, and those of us who came together in 2015 were the tinkerer, maker, late-night project types. So, we were bummed that this avenue wasn’t going to be available to us anymore.
But, as it turns out, it was just the catalyst we needed. We knew what we liked about that show, but we also knew what we could do to make it even better. There was only one small thing getting in our way: none of us knew how to run a successful event, or the logistical challenges that came with it. But still, we came together and asked a simple question — what if?
That was the birth of Afterhours.
It all started with a few meetings over lunch, where we tossed around ideas, themes, names, and concepts. We knew that we wanted this event to impact the creative community at large, and that we wanted to help shine a light on a local non-profit and the work they were doing. And we knew that by connecting these two groups, we’d be able to create a show that would have the ability to go on for years. So we decided, that from the very beginning, Afterhours would partner with a local non-profit. That non-profit would ultimately influence the theme of the show, and give the creative community a new challenge year after year.
Once we had our core idea solidified we turned to a name. We wanted to have something that would speak to the Austin community and beyond, but also represent the kind of creatives we were. We debated a variety of ideas, but kept coming back to the same overall concepts — late night, after work, grinding, passion projects, and off hours. Again, most of us in the initial group were working our full-time jobs during the day and picking up side projects or passion projects at night.
We all loved design and being creative. And luckily the community at IBM Design allowed for this. Ultimately, the name Afterhours spoke and resonated with our drive to burn the midnight oil. But it also mapped to the fact that we wanted to help non-profits — who rely on volunteers who often donate their time and expertise off the clock.
Once we had a name, we had to figure out everything else that goes into running a poster show. We knew early on that our first non-profit should be food themed, most of our group had moved to Austin from somewhere else and food was the first thing that ties us to a community and a culture. Eventually we landed on the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (now the Central Food Bank of Texas.)
Even though we our mission was clear and we had a non-profit signed on, it was hard to move forward. We were faced with a lot of unknowns: How do you fund the event, how do you promote it, how do get people to come, how do you get artist to submit, how do get the posters printed, when would the event actually happen?
You could say that we were a little overwhelmed. But luckily for us Oen Hammonds was one of our early members, and he told us to pick a date, and work backwards to create a schedule from there.
This was the turning point for us as a show. We knew that people would probably be in the more giving mindset come November or December, we also knew that most of Austin’s transplants would be flying out for the holidays so we wanted to find a date that would hit the giving season, but also make sure that people were actually here to attend the show. We landed on Nov. 4th. That year it fell on a Wednesday, and we figured that there would be much going on in the community that we’d have to compete with.
Next, it was time to find a location. We reached out to our friends Wendy and Sean Carnegie who own LewisCarnegie to see if they’d be willing to host our opening event in their gallery space, and then leave the show up for the following week. They graciously agreed to host us, they had been active supporters of the creative community and knew what we were doing was going to be awesome.
At this point, we were clicking along. Now we just had to find the creatives. Instead of selecting the artists ourselves, we reached out to design influencers and thought leaders across the community to be judges and help us select the 30 artists. But before we could select the final 30, we had to find them. We emailed designers we admired from Dribbble, begged colleagues and friends, and basically told anybody we met out at local events to submit.
Ultimately, we received 89 submissions that first year and convinced four amazingly talented creatives to be our judges— Brad Woodward, Lauren Dickens, Armin Vit, and Geoff Peveto. Our finalists were blindly selected because we wanted to make sure that good work rose to the top, irregardless of experience.
We are going to stop here…since if you’re reading this article you probably already know that Afterhours is heading into it’s fifth year and that the show has only continue to grow since that first year at LewisCarnegie. Instead, we’re going to share quotes from the community that helped make this all possible.
And before you go, we wanted to say thank you. We seriously can’t do this show without your support. We hope you love this show as much as we do, it’s truly a labor of love for everyone that is involved and we can’t wait to see what this show grows to in the next 4, 8, 12 years. Afterhours is proud to be an AIGA Austin event. The chapter has helped us to find our footing, gain tracking with the community and become our family. We are truly appreciative of all the support these last few years, and we look forward to continue to grow into a premier Austin event.
Afterhours, by the numbers.
Since launching in 2015, our impact to the Austin community has continued to grow, both in terms of the interest from the community and the amount we’ve been able to raise for our sponsor organizations.
2015: $3,225 in cash and 224 pounds of food for Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (Central Food Bank of Texas)
2016: $4,000 for Austin Pets Alive
2017: $6,300 for LifeWorks
2018: $4,500 for Kids in a New Groove (KING)