CATHEDRAL OF JUNK: AUSTIN, TeXas
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but in Austin, trash finds a new way to live on in artist Vince Hannemann’s yard. And Vince’s yard is otherwise known as The Cathedral of Junk.
Vince started building his artistic tower of abandoned objects in 1988 and is still going. When we visited in January 2022, he had just poured a small piece of concrete with the impression of the new year.
One reason this place is so unusual is that Vince welcomes people to tour his backyard, where he’s built a tower so tall that his neighbors have tried to sue him to take it down. He uses all sorts of detritus to craft winding paths, artfully display found objects and build massive towers. You’ll see old toys, an original Mac computer, motorcycle pieces, tires, bumper stickers, ancient appliances and jars and bottles built into the walls, floors and pathways of his back yard…and somehow it is fascinating and sometimes beautiful instead of horrifying.
Vince personally answers his phone and you can call to make an appointment to visit. For a bit, the Cathedral was closed to visitors due to COVID. While we were there, Vince hung out with his dog and a cold beer in his hand, answering questions from visitors. He asks for a $5 per person donation, which I’m assuming he uses to buy more concrete or to help with legal fees to fend off unhappy neighbors.
On a sunny day, my husband, two teens and I found beauty in the Texas sun glinting off of a row of glass bottles and rusted mattress springs. We were even brave enough to climb several of the staircases made of rebar and concrete to get a better view of the adjacent piles.
We visited Austin, Texas, ready to see what was behind the famous phase: “keep Austin weird.” We definitely found a shining example at The Cathedral of Junk.