City Offers Arts Venue Aid ASAP
Cultural Arts Division's Art Space Assistance Program will award $200,000 in grants to creatives in need this summer
Given that area artists have for years been sounding the alarm about skyrocketing rents and getting priced out of venues they've created and run, and that 16 months have passed since Mayor Steve Adler named the lack of affordable space for artists a priority concern in his Austin Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, the city of Austin's newly minted response to the crisis, the Art Space Assistance Program, arrives with an acronym fairly dripping with irony: ASAP. Many a group has been displaced or nearly so in the time it's taken to develop this program – a program, it's worth noting, that's only approved and funded for this fiscal year. That said, the Cultural Arts Division now has $200,000 that it's ready to distribute to creatives in need before September is out, and some of them may get to hold on to their venues thanks to receiving a bit of that cash.
ASAP is aimed at aiding arts groups that have lost a space, are in danger of losing a space, or are being socked with a huge rent increase – defined as 25% or higher – for the space they're in presently. (And this situation must have arisen since Jan. 1, 2016.) Two kinds of grants are available: ones to help recipients cover their rent and ones to help pay for improvements on the recipients' spaces, especially with regard to bringing them up to code. Applicants can ask for up to $35,000 for the former (to cover the difference between the old rent and the new for up to nine months) and can ask for up to $50,000 for the latter (though a 50% match is required). You don't have to be a math wiz to see that with grants awarded at those levels, $200K won't stretch very far. We may be looking at as few as four or five beneficiaries of this pilot effort.
In its press release about ASAP, the Cultural Arts Division notes that it anticipates a high level of interest in the ASAP grants and stresses that this is a competitive process with priority given to applicants facing urgent, critical needs. At the same time, it encourages applications from organizations that serve at-risk/disadvantaged communities, ALAANA (African-, Latino, Asian, Arab- and Native American) communities, and women. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of public and private sector leaders in real estate, banking, and the arts, and the committee will recommend the grant recipients.
Potential applicants should attend an information meeting Thu., June 29, 6pm, in the Boards and Commissions Room at Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second. For anyone unable to get there, the meeting will also be broadcast live on ATXN, the city of Austin's television station, and recorded and posted on the Cultural Arts Division website shortly after the event. Applications will be due Tue., Aug. 1, and the grant recipients will be announced Thu., Aug. 31. The program guidelines, with full eligibility requirements and review criteria, are available at www.bit.ly/2r9H73W. Applications can be accessed at www.bit.ly/2tOiirj.