Citi is preparing $1.5 million in aid for creative spaces facing displacement

Wednesday 11 January 2023 by Chad Swiatecki

The city is preparing to open application for the latest iteration of the Creative Space Assistance Program, which provides up to $50,000 to for-profit organizations, artists, or venues facing financial hardship that could displace them.

The $1.5 million earmarked for this year’s program is the largest amount funded by the city so far since it began as a pilot effort in 2018, resulting from the number of venues and art spaces struggling with soaring rents and maintenance expenses. The scholarship application process begins January 24 in the Department of Music and Entertainment websitewith locations located in the extra-territorial jurisdiction surrounding Austin eligible for the first time ever.

Applications close February 28th and are expected to be evaluated for awards in the spring.

CSAP was up for discussion at a music commission meeting last week, where commissioners asked city employees about long-term plans for the program, which could be used to help with rent, improve income-generating spaces, and as part of gap funding to buy creative space.

The city has a standing commitment of $500,000 to the CSAP program in each budget year going forward, said Erica Schmale, director of the Department of Music and Entertainment. The commission also has the option of requesting more money as part of recommending annual budget priorities to the city council.

“We have a goal of making the program sustainable and trying to move away from Band-Aid, so to speak, really focus on rental property improvements to increase revenue rather than the rental assistance that Band-Aid needed two or three years ago,” she said. “We really want to see our creative work. It is investing in ways to make more money so it can be sustainable… And the fact that the guidelines are now allowing for spaces within (ETJ) is a great opportunity to get the word out in places that weren’t able to apply before.”

The commissioners, including Patrice Pike, expressed concern about the city’s plan to make the program public because it’s only open for a month. This led to a discussion about the city’s guidelines for the commission to create its own Facebook account or other social media account that could be used to build a following and make announcements about future meetings and programs of interest to music stakeholders.

Rebecca Reynolds, president of the Music Venue Alliance’s Austin chapter, said the city’s ongoing adjustments to the program, including expanding eligibility for ETJ, are necessary as musicians, venues, and arts organizations are forced to move away from downtown. due to affordability concerns.

She said creating CSAP prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 allowed the program to be ready and able to assist a few music venues that were at risk of closing when all live events were closed due to concerns about the spread of the virus.

“At the time Covid was hitting in 2020, there were two places that were barely hanging through a thread that we managed to get approved for this funding before we knew anything about[the Paycheck Protection Program]or anything like that. You saved the day.” Really for some of our places, I can definitely say that.”

While city employees hope more grants will go toward capital improvements to spaces to improve their ability to generate revenue, Reynolds said monthly rental rates and associated expenses continue to be the most serious financial problem for places. “The rental price may stay the same depending on your contract, but the commitment can change year after year depending on the appraisal of the property you’re in, and it’s hard to prepare for that kind of fluctuation.”

Image available via a CC BY-SA 3.0.0 Update license.

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