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City Fighting To Keep Local Artists In Austin
As rent continues to climb in Austin, local artists and musicians are being priced out of their living and work spaces. City officials are concerned we will lose a huge economic impact if it continues.
The creative sector including music, art and theatre brings $4.35 billion and nearly 49,000 jobs to the area.
Austin Playhouse is just one business affected. The theatre was forced out of their 10-year location. Right now they are temporarily operating in the Highland Mall.
“We started paying around $5,000 a month rent when we began. Each year after the first three years it started climbing. By the time we left there we were paying over $12,000,” Artistic director Don Toner said.
As a solution, Austin Playhouse is building its own 17,000 square foot facility in the Mueller area.
Knowing others are struggling, the theatre partnered with the non-profit Artspace to build 45 units of affordable housing and work space for artists above their building.
“The cost of the survey and the work is $42,500. The city has contributed $25,000 to it,” said City of Austin Civic Arts Consultant Janet Seibert.
The city defends the money spent because it figures out how to keep artists in the area.
As for Austin Playhouse, they need $5 million to build. So far they have raised $600,000 and plan to match that. To bridge the gap, the city is considering ways to help.
“We don't have any funding right now set aside. Right now staff is in the process of exploring different ways we might be able to help them out. No decisions have been made,” said Seibert.
Until the new theatre is built next season, the show will go on.
“We have a team of actors that audiences come back to see show after show and season after season. They root for them and it's part of the experience of theatre,” said Toner.
If you are an artist, the city needs your input. The survey can be taken until January 10. Go to http://artspaceaustinproject.org/.
By Christie Post