Artists Serve As Centerpiece Of New Downtown Austin Initiative

Tony Cantu
·4 min read

AUSTIN, TX — The Austin City Council has passed a resolution aimed at supporting local musicians and downtown businesses.

Passed on Wednesday, the resolution aims to launch creative activations in downtown Austin. The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation — in partnership with council member Kathie Tovo, who introduced the resolution — calls for the city manager to identify funding toward developing strategies to reinvigorate downtown, officials detailed in an advisory. The resolution was co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler along with council members Natasha Harper-Madison, Vanessa Fuentes and Leslie Pool.

“The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation is dedicated to creating transformative legacy projects that enhance downtown,” Jennifer Wiebrand, chair of the Downtown Austin Alliance Board of Directors, said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to receive the support of council to continue working with local artists, musicians and creatives on projects that enrich Austin’s cultural fabric and bring joy to everyone who lives, works and plays downtown.”

The resolution calls for deploying creative programs that will encourage a vibrant atmosphere to support the success and patronage of downtown businesses including a street performer program to help local musicians whose performance opportunities have diminished during the pandemic, offering free parking for up to two hours with a validated ticket, and the display of commemorative banners featuring the work of local artists and photographers along Congress Avenue.

“The global pandemic has threatened the survival of the vibrant life of downtown Austin, and it’s more important than ever to support the retailers, restaurants, creative artists and entertainment venues that are the heartbeat of our downtown cultural ecosystem,” said Tovo, whose district includes downtown. “I am proud to lead this effort to support The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation in safely and collaboratively re-activating downtown Austin with strategies to help sustain these businesses throughout our city.”

The Downtown Alliance Foundation — with a mission to inspire people, build community and mobilize resources that make downtown vibrant, activated, inspiring and reflective of Austin’s distinctive culture — recently contributed meaningful murals, including the city’s largest one, across downtown as part of the Writing on the Walls project.

The Downtown Alliance Foundation has worked to create opportunities to showcase local music and support downtown businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Shop the Block, a partnership between the City and the Downtown Alliance Foundation, allows businesses to expand their building's footprint to add seating, music, and programming to create a festive outdoor shopping and dining experience.

Additionally, the 26th Annual Downtown Holiday Stroll was a reimagining of a beloved holiday tradition that helped bring shoppers back downtown in a socially distant manner and provided local musicians paying gigs — for many, their first in weeks — officials noted.

“In a time when the livelihoods of so many have been threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope people will come out and remember what made us all fall in love with downtown,” Wiebrand continued. “People can enjoy a Saturday at Republic Square, shopping at the farmer’s market, grab lunch at Salt and Time or one of the great restaurants in the 2ND Street District, then shop the district, all while enjoying live music in outdoor spaces.”

The public is encouraged to make a contribution to the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation to help extend the street performer program past the spring and support local musicians and businesses.

Adler and council members reacted to the initiative:

  • “The City of Austin is committed to building back better coming out of this pandemic, and to do that we are collaborating with retail businesses and our creative communities to ensure that the vibrancy of our downtown is re-activated quickly and better than ever before. With this resolution, I look forward to creative ideas being implemented that will help our city’s cultural and economic recovery.” – Adler

  • “Downtown Austin is an absolute neutron star of job density and economic activity in our region. Not only that, but downtown tax revenues bankroll so many important programs and services that make life better for residents across the city. From living, working, learning, playing and more, downtown is the district where you can do it all, and we owe all of that to forward-thinking planning. Now is the time to augment that planning to ensure this pandemic doesn’t permanently cripple our economic engine and the vital ecosystems it supports.” — Harper-Madison

  • “Due to the hard work of Council Member Tovo in partnership with the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, the small businesses in the heart of our city will have a much-needed opportunity of prosperity during these challenging times of economic uncertainty. I look forward to supporting both this initiative to reactivate downtown Austin and the diverse community that depends on the success of our downtown district.” — Council member Vanessa Fuentes

  • “Downtown Austin is an expression of the health and vibrancy of our entire city and contributes to our overall cultural and economic well-being. Building an innovative team with the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation and other partners to invigorate our downtown benefits all of Austin, business owners, artists and workers alike.” — Pool

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch