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August 11, 2020

Carver Museum Master Plan Moves Forward

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When the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center opened its new facility in 2005, the crescent-shaped limestone building was a long-awaited and significant improvement for the city-owned center that supports Black culture.

Designed by Donna Carter — one of Austin’s few Black women architects — the 36,000-square-foot building has galleries, the 134-seat Boyd Vance Theatre, a small dance studio, a darkroom, archival space, classrooms and an interactive gallery for children.

But that building is only the first phase of what was originally a three phase building program approved by city council back in 2000. Phases two and three have never been realized. Money that would have gone to increasing the facility’s space instead went to other projects managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

City leaders gave the green light for a master plan process to move forward earlier this year.

And now, after the coronavirus pandemic pivoted stakeholder meetings online, the master planning process is ready for public input.



A virtual meeting for community members is set for Aug. 8. Register to participate at:

speakupaustin.org/carveratx-planning

And a community survey is currently open to gather input on the Carver’s needs and future:

speakupaustin.org/carveratx-planning/survey_tools/carvermuseumatx-survey-1

The Carver is also seeking stories and memories about the community — about people, the site or the facility of the George Washington Carver complex.

speakupaustin.org/carveratx-planning?tool=guest_book#tool_tab

While a budget has not yet been established for the expansion project, money would be drawn from a 2018 voter-approved bond package that included $128 million to build and renovate city libraries, museums and cultural arts facilities.

Among the proposed additions to the facility are additional gallery space, a second theater, an amphitheater and more parking.

See the master planning process at austintexas.gov/CarverATXplanning.

The Carver Museum shares its Angelina Street site with an historic 1926 building that now serves as the Genealogy Center. That 1,800-square-foot building was Austin’s first public library and downtown on Eighth and Guadalupe streets. However in 1933, after a new central library was building, the building was moved to its present site to serve as an East Austin branch library for Black people under the city’s segregationist policies.

The George Washington Carver Genealogy Center. The building was moved to its current site in 1933 from downtown Austin.
The George Washington Carver Genealogy Center. The building was moved to its current site in 1933 from downtown Austin.

In 1978, after a new George Washington Carver Branch Library was built next door, the historic building became the Carver museum, then later the Genealogy Center.

Draft plans for the Carver expansion are scheduled go to the Austin City Council for final approval next spring. See the complete outline of the master plan at:

austintexas.gov/CarverATXplanning

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Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzinhttps://sightlinesmag.org
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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