The City of Austin is starting an “artist-in-residence” program that they hope will bring a fresh creative eye to city agencies while also employing struggling artists as the price of living in the city increases. The Austin American Statesman reports on the new plan.
The first department to get an artist’s help will be the Watershed Protection Department, which is in charge of city flood control and solutions to combat erosion and water pollution. The selected artist, which will be a visual artist, will stay in the department for six to nine months. They will use their unique skills to come up with creative solutions to the department’s problems, as opposed to creating art.
The exact way the artist could help is open to the interpretation of the individual hired. They might look at designing flood control systems in more aesthetically pleasing ways or they could come up with innovative ways to reach the community.
The artist will be paid $8,750 plus have a budget for $5,000 for expenses and will have to devote at least 250 hours between March and November to the city. The money will come from the city’s Innovation Office.
The Innovation Office, part of the city’s general fund, was started to recruit city employees to come up with unique ideas for functions the city was responsible for. Projects have included a bike path with lighting, shipping containers repurposed for temporary use, and a collection of photos of people doing activities in Austin.
This particular idea was thought up by City Cultural Arts Manager Meghan Wells, who sees it as a win-win for everyone involved. She says it allows the artist community more visibility and a chance to be compensated and gives the city a fresh outlook on old ideas.
The city will be hiring a visual artist this first year, but Wells wants to cast a wider net in the future and bring more city departments into the fold and more types of artists, including musicians, actors and more.
Austin isn’t the first city to have such a program. Los Angeles and Boston both have similar programs that bring artists into city departments.
The city is currently looking for ways to support the artistic community in Austin, as many artists are pushed out by rising rents and housing prices. The City Council already has a live music break during their meetings.
Interested visual artists can go to an informational meeting on January 19th from 5:30pm to 6:30pm at the City Hall Boards and Commissions Room at 301 W. Second Street. All applications are due February 16th.
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