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Memo: Art Space Assistance helping creatives stay afloat

Monday, April 16, 2018 by Katy McElroy

A major issue artists in Austin are facing is finding (and keeping) affordable places in which to create, show and perform their works. When the Economic Development Department released its 68-page report response to the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus in June 2016, it named affordable space a priority for the creative community. Last year, the Art Space Assistance Program was created to provide emergency financial assistance to groups facing problems with rent and maintenance on their properties. An total of $200,000 was granted to the program in the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget, which was allocated to 11 groups in amounts ranging from $9,000 to $35,000. In an April 12 memo, Interim Economic Development Director Rebecca Giello updated the mayor and City Council members on the progress of the program, so far. All of the organizations except the Vortex theater “are using their grants to reduce rent expense,” Giello says. The Vortex “is using its grant to reduce building code compliance related expenses.” The memo also gives some specifics on how the agencies are using their money. The Tapestry Dance Company, which received $9,065 from ASAP, reported that it was able “to retain their current roster of professional artists,” the memo says. In addition, the funds gave the company the ability “to continue offering performances and education that otherwise would have been cut or reduced.” The Austin Visual Arts Association received $4,000, which, the memo reports, “allowed the agency to keep their space and enter into a new 3-year agreement with their landlord.” The grant money also helped the association “stabilize their finances following unexpected rent increases during the summer of 2017 and allowed the agency to continue programming without having to raise fees or rents of their artists.” The ASAP funding was a one-time allocation, and the department is currently reviewing the program to determine whether it should continue in the future.

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