If You Build It ...

Ah, you know the rest

Do you really need a reminder from me as to what Austin's big arts story for 2008 was? After 16 years of planning, designing and redesigning, raising millions of dollars, and persevering through every obstacle imaginable, the Long Center for the Performing Arts opened. If you somehow missed hearing the blast of media fanfare around its debut, you were bound to catch the howls of outrage sparked by the massive traffic jam that occurred when two Long Center performances collided with the International Gem & Jewelry Show at Palmer Events Center and the Austin Reggae Festival at Auditorium Shores on the same Sunday afternoon. It was a painful misstep for the center, but it confirmed that the city knew the Long Center was there.

How well the Long Center truly fits into Austin's cultural landscape and whether it will fully realize its potential won't be known for some time. But one thing we do know eight months into this facility's life: Austin arts groups are realizing their potential when it comes to programming there. Companies across the cultural spectrum have been producing ambitious work there with impressive results. The lists in this issue tell the tale: companies from the Rude Mechs to Ballet Austin to ProArts Collective being hailed for work produced at the Long Center. And audiences agree; they have been packing the house for many of these homegrown shows. That's as encouraging a sign as the center's completion.

The Long Center wasn't the only arts story this year. The Butlers gave the UT School of Music a stunning $55 million. Some long-planned spaces moved forward (Arthouse's renovation, Zach Theatre's third space, Austin Museum of Art's new building), some venues debuted (KidsActing's Center Stage Theatre, TexArts' Morris Theater), and some departed (so long and thanks, Gallery Lombardi and Arts on Real). And we lost some dear friends (Raúl Salinas, Glynda Cox, Alan Pappé, Francis Hodge, Frank Delvy). Still, 2008 was about crossing a line, moving forward, growing up. The Long Center gave us a new measure of what we can be culturally, and even with the economic collapse now leaving the future uncertain for Austin's artists, there's no turning back from that.

More Austin arts scene
Cultural Arts Division
Cultural Arts Division
Talking art, in public and on the economic ropes

Robert Faires, Sept. 11, 2009

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Austin arts scene, Long Center for the Performing Arts, UT Butler School of Music, Rude Mechanicals, Ballet Austin, ProArts Collective

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