Bloomberg Philanthropies has named 26 Austin cultural groups that will receive significant grants as well as management training as part of a $43 million second-wave campaign to strengthen small-to-medium-sized American arts nonprofits.
The charitable foundation — established by businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — chose the groups by invitation only in selective cities.
“It was a complete shock,” said Ron Berry, artistic director of Austin recipient Fusebox Festival. “I was in the office reading an article about how Bloomberg was expanding into our region and remarked to the team about how exciting that was, and then we got an email from them about five minutes later.”
“The arts inspire people, provide jobs and strengthen communities,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “This program is aimed at helping some of the country’s most exciting cultural organizations reach new audiences and expand their impact.”
In May, Austin was named alongside Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. to receive a second round of Bloomsberg grants valued at $43 million. Rare for this type of giving, the money is intended to cover operational expenses rather than specific programs.
“We wanted to reach cities that we thought had a really strong mix in the way they were serving up arts and culture,” Kate Levin, who oversees arts programs for Bloomberg, told the New York Times in May.
Previously, the program had given $65 million to smaller groups in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In response to the news, Austin arts leaders talked about immediate needs, such as rent or replacement facilities and equipment, but also longer term strategies like marketing and development.
“Because our building has been sold, we must move in two years,” said Chris Cowden, longtime leader of Women & Their Work Gallery.”We have decided that, to avoid ever higher rents and the instability that brings, we must buy a building. Since the Bloomberg grant is earmarked for operating expenses, money that we would normally have to use for rent and salaries can now be set aside in a fund that will be used to buy that building.”
Finding new audiences is a high priority for long-established groups that have not reached their potential in the community.
“We are investing most of the funds into marketing because that is what we believe will make the strongest impact,” said Ann Ciccolella, artistic director of Austin Shakespeare. “I am personally thrilled! It’s taken a long time to get to a $500,000 budget and now it’s time for growth. With so many arts groups in the city learning new tactics together, I am hoping for powerful results.”
For some groups, the grant money takes a back seat to training. Bloomberg’s arts innovation and management program was devised by DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.
“The grant comes with a wealth of consulting services and access to experts in the fields of marketing and development,” said Michelle Schumann, artistic director of the Austin Chamber Music Center. “I’m really thrilled to have the opportunity to ‘up our game.’”
The Bloomberg group instructs recipients to keep mum about the gift amounts, but an informal poll suggests that the grants equal 10 percent of their existing operating budgets.
“I am pumped,” said Jenny Larson, one of Salvage Vanguard Theater‘s artistic directors. “This funding could not have come at a better time for us. Being in a place of transition with the venue and staff has made us feel off balance. This support gives me hope and confidence that over the next two years we can create a solid foundation for SVT to continue to grow from.”
What do local arts leaders want to do with the windfall?
“Everything!” said Lara Toner Haddock, artistic director of Austin Playhouse. “Seriously there’s always a huge wish list of what we could do with extra funds. An unrestricted grant is so welcome.”
“I am as thrilled and excited as I remember being when we received our first grant ever in 1984,” said Sylvia Orozco, head of the Mexic-Arte Museum. “I am glowing! When you are young and daring, you believe you can do anything and accomplish everything you dream of. That’s how I felt then and that is how I again feel now.”
26 Austin cultural groups will receive Bloomberg Philanthropies grants
Allison Orr Dance (Forklift Danceworks)
Austin Chamber Music Center
Austin Classical Guitar Society
Austin Creative Alliance
Austin Film Festival
Austin Film Society
Austin Music Foundation
Center For Women & Their Work
Esquina Tango Cultural Society
Penfold Theatre Company
Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance
Roy Lozano Ballet Folklorico De Texas
Salvage Vanguard Theater
Vortex Repertory Company
UPDATE: Lara Toner Haddock’s name was missing from this story in an earlier post.
Big Medium, which marshals some of the city’s most precious visual art resources, could not have chosen a more timely winner for its $15,000 Tito’s Prize.
A musician, artist and curator, Steve Parker has been involved in some of the city’s outstanding collaborative projects, beloved by the public as well as critics and colleagues, including work on the city’s much-discussed grackle population.
The prize comes with a solo exhibition at the Big Medium Gallery, Oct. 19-Nov. 18, as well as a key spot on the East Austin Studio Tour (Nov. 10-18).
“Parker exemplifies the way contemporary artists push beyond the boundaries of genres and media towards the pursuit of creativity,” Mellard says. “His strong artistic practice in new music performance, in sites ranging from parks to parking lots, has expanded into public sound sculptures and more recently installations. His generous approach brings together groups of trained performers and even invites curious members of the public to participate in his scores.”
Big Medium, which produces EAST and WEST, has confirmed the dates and other details for the next Texas Biennial. The group survey exhibition, which features artists living and working in the state, will appear at 211 E. Alpine Road in Austin, Sept. 30-Nov. 11. The final list of artists selected by curator and artistic director Leslie Moody Castro will be announced Aug. 30
Pop Austin, which stages annual exhibitons of art one might not normally see in Austin, announces that this year the monumental event will take place Nov. 9-12 at Fair Market. It kicks off with an opening party Nov. 9. General admission will take place Nov. 10-12. Among the artists featured will be Aaron de la Cruz, Jon One and Yang Na. Tickets go on sale Aug. 30. The show is also a part of Big Medium’s EAST.
The Landmarks program, which provides the high-quality public art for the University of Texas, let us know about a big new mural in the works. The 4,000 square-foot-piece by José Parlá will grace Rowling Hall, the new home of the McCombs School of Business graduate program. The unveiling will take place at a big bash in January 2018.
Sculptor and printmaker Zack Ingram is the winner of the inaugural Tito’s Prize, which comes with $15,000 cash and a solo exhibition at the Big Medium Gallery from Oct. 27 through Dec. 16. He’ll also figure prominently during the East Austin Studio Tour on Nov. 11-12, 18-19.
The Prize, given by Big Medium, is made possible by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which funds all sorts of cool stuff around town.
“I’m terribly grateful for the Tito’s Prize and the luxury of time and space it will provide me to continue the momentum I have as an Austin based artist,” Ingram says. “How do I secure a studio space, especially in a city that’s becoming increasingly unaffordable for artists? How do I make time to visit said studio while balancing a work schedule, to travel, to buy materials? The Tito’s Prize helps answer several of these concerns I’ve had.”
UPDATE: The initial post misspelled Zack Ingram’s first name.
With some exceptions, arts and other cultural groups — we include major literary and historical outlets — don’t return to full form until September.
Yet now’s the time for all arts groups to confirm their seasonal slates and for all readers to consider purchasing season tickets.
In fact, for some high-demand groups, if you haven’t secured your 2017-2018 subscriptions already, you’re stuck with angling for single slots.
For instance, galvanized by the chance to secure tickets for the matchless musical, “Hamilton,” in the 2018-2019 season, more than 3,000 new subscribers have signed on for Broadway in Austin’s 2017-2018 offerings.
Now, some groups don’t operate on the traditional season system, rolling out one show at a time. Others split up their seasons. For instance, the Long Center for the Performing Arts won’t announce its Winter/Spring slate until September.
We respect that. What will follow soon in these pages is a list of shows that we could discover with relative ease in July. We’ll add others to digital extensions on the Austin Arts blog when they arrive.
The National Endowment for the Arts today announced almost $83 million in grants nationwide.
Of that, $2.5 million went to Texas. Almost $1 million of that was given to the Texas Commission on the Arts to pass along to artists and arts groups statewide. In fact, of the $83 million that the NEA handed out today, almost $51 million went to its state partners like the Commission.
Austin’s share of the NEA grants is distorted by the fact that the Texas Commission is located in the city but benefits artists statewide. Some of that will be spent here, but we don’t know yet how much.
Interestingly, the $100,000 that Austin’s Creative Action garnered was for a partnershiip with Six Square, a group that seeks to preserve and promote the historical and cultural legacy of African-American in East Austin. Six Square is a designated Texas Cultural Arts District, but the state legislature declined to fund $5 million for the more than 30 such districts statewide.
Unless I’m missing something, these are the Austin beneficiaries:
Forklift Danceworks: $40,000 (in two grants)
Austin Chamber Music Center: $20,000
Austin Classical Guitar: $55,000
Austin School District: $100,000
Big Medium: $20,000
Austin Cultural Arts Division: $50,000
Creative Action: $100,000
Texas Folklife: $35,000*
*UPDATE: Texas Folklife received an additional $38,000 grant for its statewide work.
The title “El Capacitor” refers to the nearby decommissioned Holly Street Power Plant, which for half a century belched toxic fumes, leaked chemicals into Lady Bird Lake and was the site of numerous oil spills and fires.
Only after considerable community and citizen action did the Holly Street Power Plant close in 2007.
However, by the mid-aughts, the surrounding neighborhood of modest houses, for generations a predominantly Latino enclave, was already witnessing significant changes as gentrification drew a new demographic — yes, including artists — to the downtown-adjacent neighborhood.
For García, “El Capacitor” is symbol of the community’s potential energy — a symbolic space created to inspire the neighborhood’s longtime residents to amplify their voice.
“El Capacitor” can also be read as a summons for everyone to get out there and talk to each other in a civic space. Its bright podium offers a dignified platform for all voices. And its circle of flags frames a demand for all of us to listen to each other.
It’s hard not to have a few favorites. And with each iteration of the East Austin Studio Tour, I find myself inevitably circling round to visit certain artists.
Each year with our coverage we aim to highlight tour stops that are largely different than stops we’ve highlighted in previous years. And this year we’re challenging you to branch out and explore the entirety of the tour’s current footprint.