Ballet Austin buys itself a new home downtown, and Shakespeare at Winedale founder James Ayres receives UT's prestigious Civitatis Award.
Ballet Buys New Home
Coming soon to a downtown near you: the ballet! That's the word from Ballet Austin, which announced on October 1 that it is purchasing the Aus-Tex Printing & Mailing building at 501 West Third with the intent of creating a 28,000-square-foot Dance Education Center featuring seven studios for rehearsals and performance, plus office space for the company and other groups. Ballet Austin will pay $3.5 million for the land and the building, which, when renovated, will allow BA to house all its programs in one space for the first time in its 46-year history.
The economy's sluggishness has been a drag for almost every arts company, but in a neat reversal it actually helped the ballet. According to BA Executive Director Cookie Ruiz, Ballet Austin "secured this property because the down market kept the private sector from bidding up the price." Also playing a part, says Ruiz, was the company's steady growth over the past five years: a budget increase from $1.6 million to more than $4 million; the doubling of Academy enrollment from 450 students to more than 1,000; and a 50% growth in ticket sales to more than 40,000 tickets sold annually.
The move adds one more major presence to an increasingly vital arts district, with Ballet Austin just across the river from its future performance home, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, and just one block from the site of the future Austin Museum of Art building. Other area arts groups could also relocate to the center by leasing space there. The staff of the Long Center will be the primary and anchor tenant while its facility is completed, and 15,000 square feet of open space will be available for rent to the public and business community for special events.
Award for Ayres
Congratulations to James Ayres, UT-Austin English Department professor and founder of the Shakespeare at Winedale program, on receiving the university's Civitatis Award, a rare honor recognizing a UT faculty member's "dedicated and meritorious service to the university above and beyond the regular expectations of teaching, research, and service." UT President Larry Faulkner presented the award during his state of the university address on September 18. For Ayres, whose Winedale program is now in its 33rd year, this joins some other prestigious honors, including induction into UT's Academy of Distinguished Teachers and the Bene Pro Meritis Award, the highest honor of the College of Liberal Arts.
Arts Funding Addenda
Last week's feature on city arts funding ("A Better Tomorrow," Oct. 11) originally included two sidebars -- one on the city's audit of the Cultural Contracts Program, one on the arts consultants and their report -- that were held due to space limitations. However, they are available online, a fact that wasn't noted in the print edition. The sidebar on the audit is at http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-10-11/arts_feature2.html. The sidebar on the consultants is at http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2002-10-11/arts_feature3.html.