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Life & Arts

Effort to Help East Austin Artists Bring Studios Up To Code

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Photo by Robert Banh http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertbanh/
An artist silk screens a t-shirt during the East Austin Studio tour, during which the public is invited to see artists at work in their spaces.

There are plenty of art studios in East Austin, but not all of them comply with city, state or federal building codes. A local non-profit, the Austin Creative Alliance, says is launching a resource center and low-interest loan program to help artists on the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) bring their workspace up to code in time for the tour in November.

“Some artists have been cited for certain code violations around public safety and health, like wiring, or fence height or stair depth,” Austin Creative Alliance interim executive director Marcy Hoen told KUT News.

A handful of artists’ studios inside 501 Pedernales were shut down this spring after inspectors compiled four folders worth of material documenting code violations, the Austin Chronicle reported.

Hoen says the Austin Creative Alliance program is more geared toward individual and home-based studios, but that others may benefit indirectly. For example, she says the city is “being very cooperative” with finding a way to allow artists to sell their works from spaces that may not be appropriately zoned as retail businesses.

What the city cannot change are federal and state health and safety codes, rules that ensure buildings have proper plumbing and electrical wiring, for example. There are also accessibility issues surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hoen said.

The resource center will offer educational seminars on building codes and opportunities to meet with inspectors not affiliated with the city. Artists who don’t have money to pay for repairs would be able to apply for low-interest loans if they are presenting artists on the East Austin Studio Tour.

“We’ll have kind of a community based incentive for artists to repay,” Hoen said. “As they repay the money, other artists will be able to improve their spaces by getting access to that repaid fund.”

The Austin Creative Alliance is hosting a fundraiser a fundraiser and auction next Wednesday during which they hope to raise $20,000.

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