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A new creative space for BIPOC artists is opening in East Austin

An attendee of the grand opening of DAWA HQ dances on Thursday.
Michael Minasi
An attendee of the grand opening of DAWA HQ dances on Thursday.

Austin artists have had a hard time getting by because of rising costs in living. A new venue in East Austin hopes to make it more affordable for BIPOC musicians, podcasters and visual artists to create and share their work. The public can check it out starting Friday.

DAWA HQ, located at 916 Springdale Road, is offering free studio time, access to professional production equipment and networking opportunities for BIPOC Austinites, or Black, Indigenous, people of color. It will also be the home base for the nonprofit it’s named after, Diversity Awareness and Wellness in Action.

DAWA founder Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone’s vision for the space is expansive.

“We're gonna be able to have a live audience when we have podcasts, we’ll be able to have a live audience if we have an in-studio performance … We’ll be able to have small gatherings where we can brainstorm, where we can share ideas,” he said. “We see it as a hub for the BIPOC community and culture of Austin.”

Mahone said the new headquarters will allow DAWA to scale up the work it has been doing for years. The organization started in 2019 as a fund for BIPOC artists, health care providers, teachers and other frontline workers. Since then, it has given out $288,000 in direct financial assistance, Mahone said.

Last year, DAWA opened a studio space downtown for BIPOC creatives who filmed or recorded more than a thousand hours of content for free, but Mahone said the studio wasn’t big enough.

Now the nonprofit has moved to the new location, which has 1,100 square feet of space. Free studio time is available every Monday and Tuesday, and BIPOC artists can apply online to book slots. Mahone said the studio is already in high demand — those interested might have to wait a month for a spot.

Mahone also hopes to use the new space for paid events to raise money for DAWA's assistance funds and eventually offer more free studio days.

“Any space that we can get our hands on and just continue to create is the best,” said Mike Melinoe, an Austin-based hip-hop artist. Melinoe has gotten financial support from DAWA and filmed promos for his music in the old studio. He hopes to use the new location to work on an upcoming album. He said all the resources DAWA has given to artists over the years have definitely had an impact.

"From financial support to the creative space to the community that they're building at their shows to the online presence, it's just all been warm and heartfelt," he said.

Grand opening is a taste of the future

DAWA HQ will open to the public starting Friday with a series of events, including live music performances, podcast tapings and an art exhibition.

“[We’re] just trying to give people a sense of how they could see themselves in the space, what they can create,” Mahone said.

Here’s the lineup:

  • Friday, Nov. 10, 7-11 p.m. — DJ Wyldflower
  • Saturday, Nov. 11, 7-11 p.m. — DJ KICKIT
  • Thursday, Nov. 16, 7-11 p.m. — DJ Cortez, National Geographic travel host Jeff Jenkins and live podcast tapings 
  • Friday, Nov. 17, 7-11 p.m. — DJ Tigre, Gheto Gala, Ivy Roots and Quentin Arispe
  • Saturday, Nov. 18, 7-11 p.m. — DJ Cysum, Los Kemet, Zay Peace and Malik Baptiste 

An exhibit featuring art by Mahone and Jenaro Goode will be on display throughout the opening weekends.

You can find more details on the events and how to RSVP on DAWA’s website.

Chelsey Zhu is the digital producer at KUT. Got a tip? You can email her at
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