A $100,000 donation to kickstart cooperation between developers and arts groups

Thanks to $100,000 donation, an Austin arts service organization will embark on an effort to bring real estate developers and cultural groups together to address the lack of affordable spaces for the city’s creative community.

The Austin Creative Alliance announced Wednesday that it has launched an initiative to encourage cooperation between developers, city leaders and arts organizations so that performance, arts education and cultural spaces can find homes in future mixed-use and commercial developments.

exterior2_salvage-vangard-photo-credit_2014The project, called the Creative Infrastructure Initiative, will be funded by a donation of $100,000 from Austin financial service advisor Roy Mullin.

Monies will fund staff to create strategies  for creative infrastructure development, said John Riedie, executive director of the Austin Creative Alliance.

“We’re trying to address the looming displacement of arts and music venues across Austin,” he said.

Riedie said his organization recently polled 230 arts and music organizations and found that 52 percent reported that they expect to be displaced when their current lease expires because of rising rents.

Fostering partnerships between developers, neighborhood groups, arts organizations and other community stakeholders to preserve cultural spaces and create new ones makes sense for everyone involved, Riedie said.

“We know that creative infrastructure like theaters and cultural spaces add value to developments and to neighborhoods,” he said. “So imagine if the city gave incentives to developers who offered space at below-market rates to arts and creative industries?”

In a statement Mullin said: “(The Austin Creative Alliance) has the vision and the team to drive solutions that the community can rally behind. I am thrilled to contribute to the Creative Infrastructure Initiative.”

In February, Mayor Steve Adler released the Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, an array of resolutions to address affordability and other issues threatening Austin’s music and arts communities. City staff developed a list of recommendations that it released in July.

And Adler recently announced a plan to raise $10 million in private money to purchase and preserve some local live music venues, a plan that did not include any arts or cultural organizations.

Arts groups have charged that the city has done too little too late.

In June Salvage Vanguard Theater was forced out of its East Austin home of 10 years  when new owners of the Manor Road warehouse increased the monthly rent from $6,000 to $18,000.

And after nearly 18 years of occupancy, theatre troupe the Rude Mechs will have to vacate its venue off East Seventh Street next May because of a rent increase of 340 percent.

“We can’t pay market rent in Austin,” said Rude Mechs co-producer Madge Darlington at an arts commission meeting in August. “We need below market rent in order for most theater companies to even afford a space.”


Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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