The Way Back: What a Drag

In an ever-changing Austin, one strip of road has kept a hold on UT’s student and faculty population: the Drag.  

“As a new student at the university, you probably heard a lot about all ‘the places’ that students had adopted to replace hometown favorite hangouts,” then-student Lynn Weaver, BBA ’85, Life Member, wrote in the 1983 Cactus yearbook. “But ultimately, you were drawn toward that central area that every university seems to have; that place of intrigue where all walks of life gathered. At The University of Texas, that mecca of activity was the Drag.” 

Stretching on Guadalupe Street from MLK to 29th, the Drag is home to a variety of restaurants, shops, and bookstores. It has looked different for almost everyone who has passed through the Forty Acres over the years, but some things endure—Hole in the Wall, the Co-op, and the artists and vendors who sell their wares at 23rd Street and Guadalupe.   

It started in the summer of 1969 when artists began congregating on the Drag, drawing even more creatives selling their work, until dozens began clogging the sidewalks. To get a little more organized, an election was held and officially established the People’s Renaissance Market (also known as the 23rd Street Renaissance Artists Market) in 1972 to allow these artists to sell anything from jewelry to wind chimes to hand puppets.  

The “fair-like atmosphere” of the market, as Weaver wrote, often drew passersby on their way to classes or just exploring the strip. Artists have continued to meet in that spot for decades, though its popularity has waned as Austinites have grown more attracted to downtown or South Congress. While the COVID-19 pandemic threw the more organized market into a flux, there have been efforts within Austin City Council to bring the 23rd Street Renaissance Artists Market back permanently.   

CREDIT: The Cactus yearbook



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