Last week I attended the Texas Exes Cultured Austin: How the Arts Reflect our Community event. David Wyatt, co-founder of Wyatt Brand moderated the panel which consisted of Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle and co-founder of SXSW, Cynthia Patterson, program director for Texas Performing Arts, Meredith Powell, executive director of Art Alliance Austin and Jennifer Ransom Rice, director of development for Texas Cultural Trust.(From left to right: Cynthia Patterson, Meredith Powell, Jennifer Ransom Rice, Louis Black, David Wyatt)
Throughout the discussion you couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for how far Austin’s art community has grown. According to Cynthia Patterson, thirty years ago the arts community was shaped by universities. Today, art is designed from the technical scene and art patrons truly appreciate their choices, said Jennifer Ransom Rice.
As noted by the panelists, today Austin is now an arts community. More so, art is now one of the main sources of income for Austin and is very much a new money city when it comes to philanthropy. Louis Black went on to say that money ends up coming through the city’s culture and we are a community excited about what’s next.On the arts defining Austin’s culture, Meredith Powell noted the arts industry in Austin is very much a do-it-yourself scene, just like the entrepreneurial scene. She went on to say that Austin does so much with so little.
When asked what our community and artists want out of the arts scene, Louis Black touched on Austin being such a great audience in itself and most importantly, it’s educated. He then told the story of Director Rick Linklater having started the Austin Film Society because the film community had begun to fade. Since then the Austin Film Society has given over 14M in charitable donations to up-and-coming filmmakers.
The panelists went on to discuss the need to raise philanthropic dollars and the shortage of donors in the city.
As ways to raise funds, the panelists spoke about the need to distinguish between necessary and demand, create new revenue streams and being nimble.
On the success of SXSW, Louis Black said at one point, they stopped trying to make money and started to do it the way they wanted. Then the money came. Louis went on to say the model for SXSW is Austin, Texas. If it doesn’t seem like Austin, they won’t do it.
On the discussion of enhancing youth arts outreach programs in Austin, all panelists agreed children are key to the creative economy of the future. In addition, students who are exposed to art tend to score higher in their math and science courses.
All and all, the arts community in Austin is rapidly growing and is making a huge impact, not only in the city but across the U.S. Austin is sought after for its vibrancy, culture and people. Something we should all be proud of.