Roughly 80 artists, musicians, and East Austin residents attended the Urban Renewal Board meeting Monday night to learn that the licensing agreement for Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, the outdoor music venue on East Eleventh Street adjacent to the Victory Grill, had been extended to its current holder, DiverseArts Culture Works, through Sept. 30.
The agreement gives DACW director Harold McMillan three-and-a-half months to enact a series of maintenance improvements and prepare a strategic plan for the future of the venue, which currently resides on 17,000 square feet of city-owned land.
The venue found itself facing potential peril over the past half-year for failure to comply with city expectations. In Sept. 2013, only a six-month lease was granted, through May 30 (with a one-month extension because of a pressing family issue).
McMillan said Tuesday he was confident he could have crafted a compelling argument for the venue – named after the famed bebop-era East Austin jazz trumpeter – though the massive arrival of support certainly helped. McMillan said that more than 200 people sent letters to the city. “They weren’t just letters of support, but specific statements saying how these people can be involved to head off any concerns that the city has in those areas,” he added.
DiverseArts will now have until the fall to show that it can feasibly improve the aesthetics of the venue before making another appeal for a year-long licensing renewal.
For more on the Backyard, see this week’s print edition. Posts on the city decision are available on Facebook at Call to Action: City Plans to Close Kenny Dorham's Backyard.
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