The arts matter, and always will, in Austin

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Tom Friedman's "Looking Up" at Laguna Gloria. Photo by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

I’m delighted that, in the 17 years I have been writing for the American-Statesman, my last story as the staff arts critic/reporter is about an institution that has lately proved how art can respond to its community and its time.

READ: Contemporary Austin’s downtown museum gets a new look, new spaces

With its recent remodel of its downtown venue, and its continuing development of its sculpture park and its bold new installation on Congress Avenue, the Contemporary Austin proves how a nimble and progressive mindset makes it relevant to the city Austin is today.

And the museum does so while not losing sight of the museum’s own legacy as a foundation of Austin’s early cultural forays.

READ: 100 Years of Art: With Laguna Gloria, Clara Driscoll laid foundation for art in Austin

It is not my decision to leave the American-Statesman. The paper’s leadership has elected to eliminate my position.

We all benefit from Austin’s vibrant and democratic arts community. Whether a frequent participant or a sometimes participant, or even if rarely a participant, the cultural arts resonant in Austin with a kind of openness, accessibility and innovation that’s often lacking in other cities.

In the 17 years I have been at the American-Statesman — and in the 25+ years I’ve been in Austin — I’ve seen the city’s cultural community grow exponentially. And not just by the numbers, as Austin remains one of the nation’s fastest-growing and list-topping cities.

Austin’s cultural community has most importantly grown in depth, sophistication, diversity, resourcefulness, leadership and innovation. It’s a scene that is a dynamic force in the state, eyeballed (and envied) by people around the nation, around the world.

READ: Ballet Austin embarks on a pioneering 5-week tour to China

Yes, Austin’s major institutions have grown exponentially. But just as important are this city’s bold, independent organizations and its enterprising individual artists and collectives. And they need the public’s support, attendance and attention just as much.

READ: Austin’s One Ounce Opera is for everyone

The artist-initiated — and often delightfully scrappy — experiments, collaborations, temporary happenings and risk-taking, give Austin’s creative character its character.

The arts matter in Austin, small or big, traditional or experimental. And they always will.

Find me at

eatured l to r: Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Thomas Graves Humana Festival of New American Plays, 2010, Actors Theatre of Louisville Photo by Alan Simons

Austin theater company the Rude Mechanicals perform “The Method Gun” at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, 2010, Actors Theatre of Louisville. (Left to right: Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Thomas Graves.) Photo by Alan Simons.




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