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Three Arts Projects in Bond Package – For Now

An artist's rendering of the proposed, $30 million Mexic-Arte Museum.
Image courtesy of Fernando Romero
An artist's rendering of the proposed, $30 million Mexic-Arte Museum.

The Mexic-Arte Museum is asking for $10 million in City of Austin bond money to finance the construction and design of a $30 million, six-story building downtown.

Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, architect of the $70 millionSoumaya Museum in Mexico City, the new Mexic-Arte Museum is designed to be 54,000 square feet, half of which will be leased as office space, the Austin American-Statesman reported on Monday.

The Statesman notes that in 2000, the museum received $740,000 to buy their current location at 419 Congress Ave. In 2006, the museum received $5 million in voter-approved bonds to design and construct a new facility on the Mexican American Cultural Center campus, and the museum announced that it would sell its existing building. But three years later, the museum canceled those plans and announced it would stay on Congress Avenue. The museum started thinking about building again in 2010, receiving $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

But the Mexic-Arte museum is far from the first arts enterprise to receive city dollars. In the 2006 Austin bond election, voters approved $10 million for the Zachary Scott Theater’s new Topfer Theatre. In that same bond election, voters also approved $5 million for upgrades to the soundstages at Austin Studios.

In its ongoing creation of a 2012 bond package, the Bond Election Advisory Task Force has recommended three non-publicly run cultural programs for further consideration:  Mexic-Arte; $3 million for a new Austin Planetarium, opposite the Bob Bullock Texas History Center; and $9.5 million for further upgrades to the Austin Studios facilities.

Because of Austin’s status as not only a capital for live music but also a hub for the music, film, and the visual arts industries, city government recognizes this “Creative Sector” as a major revenue generator.

According to a recent city study, the total economic activity of the creative sector grew from $3.258 billion in 2005 to $4.351 billion in 2010 – an increase over 25 percent. The increase in revenue could cause the city to be more willing to support private creative projects like Austin Studios and Mexic-Arte.

 But on May 2nd and 3rd, the Bond Election Advisory Task Force is holding public forums it will use to further narrow its $650 million list of recommended projects – which has already been reduced from an initial $1.5 billion. With limited bond dollars, the task force will have to balance Austin’s creative sector against the rest of the city’s needs. 

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