Austin's Cultural Arts Division —
August 10, 2020

Austin’s Cultural Arts Division

By TODO Austin staff

A scene from Fusebox, a festival supported by Austin's Cultural Arts Divison

The arts have been a vital component of Austin’s character and reputation for decades. No matter the day of the week or the season of the year, the city always has something to offer, from an art exhibit to a play or musical to a comedy show or film screening. The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division plays an important role in supporting the vast array of activities available around town on a daily basis.

The Cultural Arts Division develops and administers programs in support of Austin’s cultural community and creative industries. From opportunities to create public art to professional development workshops to funding for individual artists and arts organizations, Cultural Arts offers a wide array of services for local artists, residents and tourists alike.


Art in Public Places

Art in Public Spaces

Through the Art in Public Places percent-for-art ordinance, the Cultural Arts Division commissions artists to create public artworks for city-owned sites across Austin. Two percent of eligible capital improvement project budgets allow commission or purchase of public art for that site. AIPP offers many programs to inspire, train and educate artists considering the field of public art.

The TEMPO programs (TEMPO, TEMPO Convergence, TEMPO 2D and TEMPO Refresh) allow artists to propose and create temporary artworks in a range of themes suitable for public display.

LaunchPAD public art peer-to-peer program offers professional development opportunities for local artists seeking a career in public art. Paired with established public artists, LaunchPAD artists gain public art expertise while providing services benefitting an AIPP project.

Visionary Voices is a speaker series featuring celebrated public artists from across the country currently working on an AIPP commission. Hosted in partnership with Texas Society of Architects, the series illuminates the relationship between public art and public space.

Artist-in-Residence Program embeds artists within City departments to develop imaginative approaches to delivering City services, and to create AIPP project commissions.

The People’s Gallery

The People’s Gallery exhibition at Austin City Hall is an annual, year-long presentation of work by local artists. This exhibition encourages public dialog and understanding and enjoyment of visual art. To take a virtual tour, visit


In partnership with other City departments and organizations, CAD advocates for City policies that support equitable cultural participation and foster the growth and retention of Austin’s cultural spaces and creative vitality.

Creative Space Development

Austin Congregational Church/Art in Sacred Spaces

The Economic Development Department, of which the Cultural Arts Division is a part, works with public and private stakeholders to address issues of affordability for the creative sector.

For instance, Artist Space Assistance Program provides grants to support arts non-profits facing displacement, code compliance issues, substantial rent increases, or other space-related financial pressures. Additionally, the Arts in Sacred Places is a partnership with Partners for Sacred Places to match artists in need of space with diverse congregations with space to spare.

Creative Industries Development

Cultural Arts Division works to develop Austin’s film, television, animation, visual effects, digital media and gaming industries, in partnership with local economic development, workforce, and financing organizations.

The Creative Industry Incentives Program, including the Creative Content Incentive Program and Media Production and Development Zone Incentive, offers a range of incentives to qualifying film, television, video game, and visual effects projects.

Partnership Programs

MINDPOP (Photo: Creative Action)

The Artist-in-Residence Program embeds artists within City departments to develop imaginative approaches for community engagement and creative expression.

The Village of the Arts is a partnership among the City of Austin, Austin Independent School District, MINDPOP and over 40 arts and cultural organizations dedicated to student success through an arts-rich education.


UNESCO City of Media Arts

Flowering Phantasm (Photo: Clay Odom) UNESCO City of Media Arts

UNESCO City of Media Arts designation was conferred on Austin in 2015, confirming Austin as the first (and only) city in the United States to receive this distinction. As a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), Austin works individually and in partnership with other UNESCO cities to promote creativity and cultural industries, strengthen cross-participation in cultural life, and assure the integration of culture into urban development plans.

The African American Cultural & Heritage Facility

The African American Cultural and Heritage Facility supports Austin’s long-term commitment to protecting and enhancing quality of life for African Americans. It houses administrative offices, the Greater Austin Black Chamber and the historic Dedrick-Hamilton House Visitor Center. The facility features changing exhibitions, two iconic murals, a variety of classes and workshops. Its production room and meeting spaces are available to rent for rehearsals, auditions, and informal meetings.


The City of Austin provides funding for cultural arts organizations and individual artists through the following programs:

The Core Funding Programs offer organizational and project support to local 501c3 arts and culture organizations, as well as qualifying individual artists and organizations.

The Community Initiatives Program offers funding to support the marketing, production, and presentation of public performances and exhibitions by nonprofits arts and culture organizations, as well as qualifying individual artists and organizations.

The Cultural Heritage Festivals Program provides funding to local 501c3 nonprofit organizations to strengthen the marketing, production, presentation, and funding of a culturally-specific festival.

The Capacity Building Program provides funding to individual artists, unincorporated groups, and 501 (c) arts organizations with an annual budget less than $200,000 to support conferences, workshops, classes, travel, professional organization memberships, consulting and software.

About Merideth Cox 239 Articles
Merideth is a music writer who has covered bands from her hometown in Colorado to London to Bangkok to Shanghai and finally back to Austin. Led Zeppelin changed her life. So did Dolly Parton. You can read her music reviews at

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