Austin’s high cost of real estate and the lack of affordable creative space is constant struggle for the city’s arts community. A recent survey conducted by the city of Austin’s found that 51 percent of artists have considered leaving Austin because of lack of affordable arts spaces.
Now, arts education organization Mindpop has wrangled together the Austin Independent School District and the city’s Cultural Arts Division for a new initiative that will provide local artists and arts organizations with studio space at select public schools in exchange for arts learning opportunities for students.
The program — called “The Village of the Arts” — will launch with a two-year pilot phase at Cunningham Elementary in South Austin. Five arts organizations will take up residence in four unused annex classrooms on the Cunningham campus.
“(This) represents the kind of collaborative innovation that is needed to address Austin’s affordable creative space crisis,” said Meghan Wells, manager of the city’s Cultural Arts Division.
Said Mindpop program director Jackson Knowles: “A visual artist may spend their morning painting in preparation for a gallery exhibition, and then the afternoon with third grade students creating a playground mosaic. Or a fifth grade class may come across a reference to the Harlem Renaissance and then have the opportunity to ask a songwriter in residence about the role of music in society. The possibilities are limitless.”
The organizations in-residence this year are mostly youth-oriented. The Paramount Story Wranglers is the Paramount Theatre’s in-school creative writing program, and Bibliographia offers mural-painting and screen-printing workshops. Youth theater companies Pollyanna Theatre Company and Theatre Heroes will be in residence as well as Teatro Vivo, Austin’s legacy Latinx theater company.
“Cunningham is a diverse community school and we know that this relationship will lead to greater outcomes for students, staff and family,” said Cunningham Principal Heather Petruzzini.
Some 28 percent of Cunningham’s students are in bilingual and English language learning programs.