UNESCO - Austin City of Media Arts logo

In 2015, Austin achieved the distinction of being the first (and only) city in the United States to receive a “City of Media Arts” designation from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and CulturalOrganization). The designation underscores Austin’s reputation as a trendsetting global city at the intersection of art, music, and digital technology, and an international hub for creative exchange.

From individual artists to wide-ranging arts organizations, Austin has a rich and diverse cultural ecosystem. The city is recognized for its innovation and leadership in industries including music, film, gaming, and multidisciplinary digital experiences, and festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits and the Fusebox Festival have made Austin a premiere cultural destination.

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 participation in cultural life, and assure the integration of culture into urban development plans.



Local Initiatives

With our UNESCO Media Arts designation, we hope to strengthen international relationships, connect media artists with innovative companies, bolster the economic stability of the local arts ecosystem, encourage cross-sector creative output, and elevate Austin’s creative community globally. We do this through City-funded media arts exhibitions, commissions, partnerships, special projects, panels, and temporary public art. A few recent examples include:


International Exchange

A key component of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is international cultural exchange. Cooperation and the sharing of experience and knowledge is crucial for making creativity a lever for urban development and conceiving of new solutions to tackle common challenges. In this regard, UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network offers unparalleled opportunities for cities to draw on peer learning processes and collaborative projects in order to fully capitalize on their creative assets and use this as a basis for building sustainable, inclusive and balanced development in economic, cultural, environmental and social terms.

  • City to City: Virtual Artist Exchange Program
    • City to City is a project commissioned by the members of the Media Arts Cluster of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, to mark their commitment with the importance of cooperation and support to art and creativity as a major force for the sustainable development in these times of uncertainty.

  • City to City 2021 - Play!
    • ARCOS: Erica Gionfriddo and Eliot Gray Fisher were selected to represent Austin in the 2021 version of City to City. ARCOS worked with Taeheon Lee (York, England) and Meiyan Chen (Karlsruhe, Germany) to create a new work called told-hold.

    • Virtual Gallery of City to City: Play!

  • City to City 2020 - Human Responsibility
    • Liz Rodda, a local artist and Associate Professor at Texas State University, was selected to represent Austin in the first version of City-to-City. Rodda worked with Biin Shen, an artist from Changsha, China, to create a new work called Margin of Error.

    • Virtual Gallery of City to City: Human Responsibility

  • Changsha Media Arts Festival 2018
    • Jacob Villanueva, a local artist working in digital media and interactive technology, represented Austin at the 2018 Changsha Media Arts Festival in China.
  • Gwangju Cultural Foundation Artist Exchange Exhibition 2017
    • Vurv Collective (Kevin Reilly) represented Austin in December 2017 with the piece Flow Factory in Gwangju, South Korea. The exhibition featured works from several other UNESCO Media Arts Cities and was held in conjunction with the 2017 Gwangju Cultural Foundation Meeting, which City staff attended.
  • Enghien-les-Bains Data City Exhibition 2017
    • Artist Clay Odom (Studio Modo) represented Austin in Enghien-les-Bains, France, April-July 2017 with his piece Flowering Phantasm. The exhibition featured works from several other UNESCO Media Arts Cities and was held in conjunction with the 2017 Creative Cities Annual Meeting, which CAD staff attended.
  • UNESCO Creative Cities Network Annual Meeting


Steering Committee

Austin’s designation as a UNESCO Media Arts city is managed in cooperation between the Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department and a Community Led Steering Committee. The Committee meets at least quarterly throughout the year to help guide strategies and media arts activities, such as artist selection for the Annual Media Arts Exhibition at South by Southwest. This partnership highlights Austin’s commitment to citizen and cultural participation to support a sustainable creative ecosystem for all. 

JOIN US! The Austin UNESCO Steering Committee is always looking for individuals who work in creative technologies to help support the designation. If interested in learning more, please email Laura Odegaard.


Open Calls

Local and International Artist Calls from other UNESCO Creative Cities will be posted here when available.



Check out this video for an overview of Austin's many media arts initiatives.