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Austin Music Commission fires back at Statesman criticism

Monday, April 13, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

At Monday night’s Austin Music Commission meeting, Chair Brad Stein and Vice Chair Randy Houston had some strong words for the Austin American Statesman, saying the paper had “blown out of proportion” an alleged conflict over public funds between the arts and music communities, and said that the paper unfairly insinuated that the reason the Flamingo Cantina closed during the Texas Relays was because it’s an African American event.


Houston told the assembled crowd at the Gibson Show Room that he wanted to put an end to “concern expressed…about a division” in the arts community. Houston said that Austin artists are “a family,” and said a Statesman article that said otherwise was simply incorrect. “There was something mentioned in the press recently about how public funding is being split between the arts and music communities and alleged favoritism for the cultural arts over music in city government,” he said. “Some of those things were misstated and some things have been blown out of proportion. There is no division, and we’ve already begun a dialogue about it.”


Stein also criticized Statesman coverage that singled out Angela Gillen, the owner of the Flamingo Cantina, for her decision to close during the Texas Relays, an event that caters to African Americans. “The articles in the paper were very unkind to her,” Stein said. “I think there was a clear insinuation of racism and I think that was blatantly inaccurate. Angela runs a reggae club and she is in Mexico taking her staff on vacation after an arduous SXSW. She’s planning the Bob Marley Festival… and she’s just trying to gear everyone up for that and to insinuate that she closed her club under any other circumstances is just wrong. And I would like to ask the Statesman to print a retraction because that’s very damaging to somebody who’s really vital to the music community here.” The crowd burst into applause.


Mayoral Candidate and Council Member Brewster McCracken joined the commission for a discussion of the future of Austin music. McCracken floated the possibility of a creative economy incubator that would provide artists and musicians with business acumen and investment opportunities. He suggested the city treat its music like a business and seek out and recruit “anchor employers,” who could position Austin as a center for digital distribution of music and a hub for Latin music sold throughout the hemisphere. McCracken had ideas for creating recording and performance space in new parking garages, as well as using the bed tax to enhance the creative economy. He said the city’s live music ambitions needed a clear mission and deadline, similar to President Kennedy’s directive that NASA put a man on the moon within a decade.

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