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Survey says spend creative spaces money throughout East Austin

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 by Chad Swiatecki

More than 600 respondents to a recent survey have weighed in to push for the city to use $12 million in bond money to create multiple performance centers for arts and music uses in East Austin.

Initial results of the survey, which closed on Tuesday, were shared Saturday at a joint meeting of the city’s arts and music commissions that also doubled as a forum to discuss the best end result of the creative spaces funding. More than 60 people attended the meeting at the Asian American Resource Center, with 34 speakers urging action to save local arts groups and use the money to increase opportunities for minority and underrepresented communities.

The results shared Saturday showed a clear preference for spending money on activating and improving existing properties instead of buying land to construct a single new facility. Respondents from all disciplines other than visual arts said they want flexible performance spaces with capacity for 300 people, with a visual arts presentation space also receiving some support.

On the question of location, the area east of Interstate 35 and west of U.S. Highway 183 was the easy winner from a selection of 10 regions around the city.

The final survey results and collected input from Saturday’s session will now go to a working group made up of members from both commissions. That group will decide on a process for gathering specific proposals for how to use the money.

A draft recommendation is expected from the working group and city staff by Aug. 9, which will then be presented by the commissions to City Council in October.

Arts Commission Chair Jaime Castillo and Music Commission Chair Gavin Garcia said they still hope to see an end result that looks something like the “hub” facilities pushed for by each commission last summer in the lead-up to the November bond elections that approved the funding.

Castillo said the working group now has to take the community input and come up with recommendations that fit within the city’s criteria, which generally views city-owned properties as more likely to qualify legally for funding. One drawback, Castillo said, would be the possibility that rising real estate prices in East Austin could make it difficult to use the money efficiently there.

“I want the community to make the decision. If we provide something that runs against what they want, we’re going to have a problem,” he said. “If we put forth the recommendation at our next meeting and the community is totally up in arms about it, we have to respond to that. I know a lot of people want this to get done, but if we are not in alignment I want make sure we’re doing it right.”

Photo by Frédéric Raspail [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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