Austin City Council members on Thursday unanimously approved $2.5 million in relief aid in two separate programs for artists and musicians who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a proposal made by Council Member Ann Kitchen at the April 23 regular council meeting, members approved using approximately $1 million of the existing Creative Space Assistance Program (CSAP), in an expanded Austin Artist Disaster Relief Fund. CSAP was established to help artists and creative organizations with rent stipends or capital improvements in order to find and remain in venues.
The council also approved re-directing $1.5 million in city emergency reserve funds to create the Austin Music Disaster Relief Fund to support musicians whose livelihoods have suffered.
The two programs will assist individual artists as well as venues, including live music spaces, theaters, museums and non-profit art galleries.
“I think that both of these programs are important, but I don’t know that they are enough,” said Kitchen.
Recently the city’s Cultural Arts Division (CAD) suspended its Community Initiatives funding pending Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) budget projections. CAD’s programs receive all of their funding from HOT monies, yet the hotel industry has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. A recent report presented to the council estimated that hot occupancy is down as much as 95% at area hotels,
Granted on a quarterly basis, the Community Initiatives program provides support up to $5,000 for individual artists as well as smaller community arts projects.
“This is another example of an area in which our community is vulnerable, and so then you have a pandemic and it just makes it that much worse,” Kitchen said. “I think it’s time for the city to make these kinds of improvements we made today, and then to make additional improvements so that we can preserve these spaces. Art and music is just the soul of Austin.”