AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been nearly nine months since February’s historic winter storm brought sub-freezing temperatures, unprecedented power outages and water loss to Texas. Today, a group of Austin creators are working to commemorate 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 the direct perspective of Texans. KB Brookins, the project’s creative lead, said they were compelled to establish this process as a way to deal with the trauma that Texans have experienced.
“I didn’t feel like I had the chance in my professional life, or even in my personal life, to grieve what it was or process what it 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 moments in history.”
After the winter storm, Brookins said they began hosting virtual check-ins with friends who were also going through their experiences during the storm. When Austin Mutual Aid began offering spring grant funding rounds, they brainstormed the concept with the city’s Office of Sustainability, which was receptive to the project.
Gillian Kümm is a project assistant for the anthology and said there are still a lot of emotions and heartbreak from this experience. Given the timing of the storm before the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, they weathered the storm alone, accompanied by their dog.
While they are still considering whether to add their voice and perspective to the anthology, they added that the project serves to hold legislative leaders accountable 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 these conversations about climate change, they added that 100% of proceeds from the anthology will be divided between climate-focused and community justice initiatives. PODER, Basta Austin and Go Austin/Vamos Austin.
With this project, the two said it was about balancing acknowledging the experiences Austinians endured during the storm and holding leaders accountable, while also being able to constructively deal with that grief and go forward.
“When I can create art on something, all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Okay, that was let go of my body,'” Brookins said. “I feel like I can think better. I feel like it’s not something that’s just in my head anymore, and it can be really freeing.