New city survey finds more than 50 percent of Austin artists have considered leaving


A new survey conducted by the city of Austin’s finds that 51 percent of artists have considered leaving Austin because of lack of affordable arts spaces.

The inaugural annual Creative Space Survey, conducted by the city’s Economic Development Department and released today, collected data from more than 500 artists, arts organizations and creative-sector businesses. The open, online survey was administered from July through September of 2017.

Some 42 percent of all survey respondents said they contemplated leaving Austin. Also, 51 percent of arts organizations and businesses said their space was currently too small.  [Jump to survey highlights here.]

The city is in the process of collecting data for the 2018 iteration of the survey which is open through September 3 at

City officials say the results of the 2017 survey confirm that affordability is the largest problem Austin’s arts community currently faces.

“Results of the inaugural Creative Space Survey confirm the affordability issues facing our creative community and reinforce the need for a variety of solutions to both preserve the current and identify new long-term spaces for artists,” said Meghan Wells, manager of the city’s cultural arts division.

Read Sightlines’ coverage of Austin’s venue crisis

The survey comes out of city officials’ efforts to address how the city’s rising costs of real estate have affected Austin’s creative artists. And officials say that the data gathered will prove help for city staff to develop creative space incentives, arts and historic district designations and help leverage creative space matchmaking efforts with partner organizations.

In an attempt to address arts sector affordability in 2016, the Economic Development Department, which oversees the Cultural Arts Division and the Music Office, issued the Music and Creative Ecosystem Stabilization Recommendation. 

Last year the Austin City Council launched the Arts in Sacred Places and the Art Space Assistance Program both efforts to address the arts space crisis. The assistance program provides grants to non-profits facing permanent displacement, those previously displaced, or those facing lease renewals at substantially higher rates.

Many artists and arts organizations have already been displaced or shuttered, particularly in East Austin. Once part of Austin’s racially segregated “Negro District” created by the city in 1928, East Austin has seen rapid gentrification since the turn of the millennium when artists began moving in. A recent report by the University of Texas’ Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis found that as long-time East Austin residents of color are being pushed out of the area, dogs have outnumbered children in the community nearly two to one.

City of Austin 2017 Creative Space Survey Highlighted Results

Artists and organizations are looking for small to mid-sized spaces to grow

  • 81% of artists polled indicated their ideal workspace to be 500 square feet or less
  • 78% of organizations and businesses currently have space under 5,000 square feet, with 39% currently operating in small spaces under 1,000 square feet
  • 51% of organizations and businesses said their space was currently too small 
  • 47% of organizations and businesses said their ideal space would be 1,000-5,000 square feet

Artists and creative spaces are finding it hard to stay in Austin

  • 38% of respondents indicated they have paid for space they could not afford
  • 69% used a space they identified as not being ideal for their needs
  • 42% of respondents said they have considered leaving Austin for another city or state
  • 3% of organizations and businesses are in a precarious position with month to month leases
  • 12% of organizations and businesses shared that they currently do not have or are in immediate danger of losing the space they need within the next year

Flex spaces/black box Theaters and classroom space are popular space requests. When organizations and businesses were asked to identify what their ideal space would include:

  • 49% indicated flexible performance space and black box theaters
  • 52% asked for classrooms and teaching space
  • 34% were interested in workspaces for individual artists


Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is an arts and culture journalist who has covered visual art, performance, film, literature, architecture, and just about any combination thereof. She was the staff arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman for 17 years. Her commendations include the First Place Arts & Culture Criticism Award from the Society for Features Journalism. Additionally, Jeanne Claire has been awarded professional fellowships at USC’s Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and NEA/Columbia University Arts Journalism Institute. In 2022, she was awarded the Rabkin Prize in visual art journalism. Jeanne Claire founded and led Sightlines, a non-profit online arts and culture magazine that reached an annual readership of 600,000. And for two years, she taught arts journalism at the University of Texas College of Fine Arts. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Architecture magazine, Dwell, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, Art Papers, and ICON design magazine, among other publications.

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