Origin Studio House is a growing space for Austin’s Black creatives

Dante Clemons (L) and Brittney Williams (R) are the co-founders of Origin Studio House.

Dante Clemons (L) and Brittney Williams (R) are the co-founders of Origin Studio House.

Marcus Dodson for Origin Studio House

A creative space aimed at cultivating community for Black Austinites plans to open its doors for daily hours in the coming months. Origin Studio House, founded by Dante Clemons and Brittney Williams, has hosted community events and artist exhibitions since 2021. Now, the company plans to serve coffee, cocktails, and food truck bites from 7 a.m. until the evening later this year.

Located at 2925 E. 12th St., Austin, Texas 78702, Origin began as a shared idea between Clemons and Williams, who met through a mutual friend. Originally from New Orleans, Clemons moved to Austin in 2015. She said while she joined organizations to meet like-minded young Black professionals, they did not have a consistent space to host events.  

“I had this idea, this concept in my heart, this hunger for a coffee shop, just a third space, where I can convene with friends, where the organizations that I was a part of could also convene and host things, that would be affordable but also communal in nature,” Clemons told MySA.

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For Williams, who was born and raised in Austin before moving to New York City for college, coming back to the Texas capital made her realize the kind of physical space she envisioned for Black creatives just wasn’t available.     

“I would say it was very much a selfish pursuit, but also one that I knew that if I was dealing with — grappling with that same sort of looking for where are those things happening — that there had to be others as well,” Williams told MySA. 

Clemons also noticed a recurring theme in the organizations she joined, of people only staying in Austin for short work stints and then moving to cities that offered better social and cultural opportunities for Black Texans, such as Houston.

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“In the search for community, the going narrative was that there were — quote, unquote — no Black people in Austin,” Clemons said. “Housing is a big part of it, and I can’t solve for that. But what we can do is create a hospitality space that begins to create an anchor point for a community to show up and exist and be nourished. Origin is designed to fill that need.”

Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. census data shows Austin was the only major American city to have a total population growth rate of more than 20%, while simultaneously seeing a decline in the city’s Black population, according to a 2014 UT-Austin study. The city portrays a narrative that it is welcoming to people from all walks of life, but Black Austinites have not felt that same sense of community.

Clemons and Williams set out to change that. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the pair began serious talks about what Origin Studio House should be. 

“Black artists were central to that conversation because of the way we think about rent and … how uninhabitable cities can be for artists, for people that need spaces to actually create and produce work, not to mention to show the work,” Clemons said.

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In order to pitch the project to investors, Williams came up with the idea to produce a show highlighting Black artists, emphasizing that Origin Studio House wasn’t just a food and beverage operation, nor just an art gallery or music venue, but a communal space where the city’s Black residents can thrive.

Origin Studio House in East Austin plans to open for daily hours this year as a space for community, food, drink, and art for Black Austin residents.

Origin Studio House in East Austin plans to open for daily hours this year as a space for community, food, drink, and art for Black Austin residents.

Nina Ho for Origin Studio House

Their first event, featuring a live art installation and Black women chefs was also hosted in East Austin, reflecting the duo’s commitment to bringing the space directly to the Black community. In 1928, the city forced its Black population to move into a six-square mile area in East Austin — now known as Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District — to enforce segregationist policies. 

The business took off after the first event as investors and partners were able to experience what Origin Studio House would bring to Austin’s Black community, and the space has been hosting bigger events every year since then.

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The pair isn’t quite ready to announce when their grand opening will be, but they’re working with food trucks and other partners to plan art exhibitions, live music, and, for the first time, film programming. 

While the food trucks will operate on their own hours, Clemons said Origin will serve coffee sourced from Talisman Coffee Co all day, as well as their own cocktail menu.

“Keeping in line with … our brand name Origin, we wanted to present cocktails and a beverage menu that speaks to the origin of African influence in hospitality and in America’s cultural food understanding,” Williams said. 

One of their coffee offerings will be a sweet potato latte, which Williams said is a play on a caramel macchiato and a sweet potato pie. 

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Big Mama's Brew will feature flavors of hibiscus, a flower with its origins rooted in Senegal. 

Big Mama’s Brew will feature flavors of hibiscus, a flower with its origins rooted in Senegal. 

Grant Wallace for Origin Studio House

“We also have a cocktail called Big Mama’s Brew, which is to honor just everyone’s matriarch, and grandmother, which plays a pivotal role in African American cultures here in this country,” Williams said. “That cocktail pulls on hibiscus, which is a flower with its origins in Senegal.”

Williams said what the pair is doing in Austin with Origin is something she hopes can serve as inspiration to create similar spaces in other areas where underrepresented groups feel out of place, like in San Antonio. 

“I know that San Antonio in its own conversation of gentrification, and dealing with artists and people of color needing space as well as they get pushed out with development, that this is something that people see as something that they can do as well,” Williams said. “But just knowing that you can have a space for what it is that calls to you. You just have to create it.”

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