Equity work

“Austin’s Equity Equation” was produced by the Museums and Cultural Programs Division as a touring exhibit that addresses four major factors in becoming an ally for equity in Austin. These factors include understanding current inequities for people of color in our community through data related to quality of life; learning the vocabulary of equity; learning about Austin’s diverse history; and developing an action plan for further involvement. The exhibit will be rotated among indoor Parks and Recreation facilities that are accessible to the public from October 2021 to March2023 (see tour schedule here.) A resource guide accompanies the exhibit which can be accessed here or make comments or suggest changes.

Social Practice 

In 2020, Museums and Cultural Centers commissioned artists to train in Social Practice, and to organize and engage community in an artistic response to cope with and overcome COVID-19. The program ran from October 5 to March 31, 2021 as “Arts Responders.” Participating artists included Lizzie Chen, Peelander-Yellow, Caroline Walker, Sarah Wilson, Jade Walker, Naomi Caballero, J Muzacz, Rehab El Sadek, Professor ESHUDARE, Douglas Laustsen, and Gathering Ground Theatre. Planning for a new iteration of the program is underway under the auspices of the Austin Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Socially engaged practice, according to the Tate Museum, “describes art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work.” It can include “any art form and involves people and communities in debate, collaboration or social interaction.” Social practice uses the participatory element as the artwork, integrally developing an idea and turning it into public will. 

Programs for Artists

The Museums and Cultural Programs Division provides programs and services for artists and performers to aid in their professional development. Programs include:

  • Emerging Teaching Artists is a workshop program for artists who wish to develop as teachers (see Dougherty Arts Center website in the spring.)
  • The Public Art Training Program provides an opportunity for visual artists to transition into a Public Art practice (see Dougherty Arts Center website in December.)
  • Artist Resource Center (see Dougherty Arts Center website) provides online and in-person workshops in arts business, plus provides a free drop-in resource center. 
  • Artist Access Program provides free rehearsal space and low-cost performance space for visual and performing artists selected through an application process.
  • Latino Artist Access Program provides free rehearsal space and low-cost performance space for Latino visual and performing artists selected through an application process. (This program is on hold until 2025 after Phase II construction.)
  • Artist residency programs at the Dougherty Arts Center and the Carver Museum and Cultural Center are offered annually (see Dougherty Arts Center and Carver website).
  • Artist collaborations for engagement and events for cultural heritage exhibits at the Oakwood Cemetery Chapel.

Programs for Youth

The Museums and Cultural Programs Division offers hundreds of programs for youth from summer camps to weekend and after-school workshops in arts, history and culture (see  websites.) Additionally, the Division has a growing interest in the development of youth internship and training programs.

Caminos is an immersive one-year-long paid internship empowering Austin-area teens to carve their own path in the creative arts. Students work alongside ESB-MACC professionals on a variety of community-oriented activities which include support and leadership at ESB-MACC’s signature events and festival; curation and execution of Youth Art exhibits for the community at large; production of relevant public artworks aligned with the ESB-MACC’s mission; public outreach for the ESB-MACC at youth conferences; conventions and community events.

Works in Progress (WIP) is an immersive program that prepares teens living in Austin for careers in the arts. Through weekly workshops and networking, students will develop their professional skills, prepare for artistic careers and education beyond school, and meet with industry professionals and working artists. The goal of the program is to encourage students to follow their artistic passions and explore the diverse paths available in the creative industries.

Smithsonian Affiliation

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department announced its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, as the first municipal parks system to join the Smithsonian Affiliations Program, at a news conference on April 23, 2013. The Smithsonian's unparalleled collections, scholarship, and exhibitions document the world in all of its beauty, diversity, and complexity. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department will bring the Smithsonian to Austin’s community and create lasting experiences that will broaden perspectives on science, history, world cultures and the arts. The mission of Smithsonian Affiliations is to share these resources with Americans in their own communities by developing collaborative partnerships with museums, as well as cultural and educational organizations. Smithsonian Affiliations offers broader opportunities than those found in standard museum loan programs. In addition to artifact loans, Smithsonian Affiliations helps member organizations identify appropriate resources within the Smithsonian to accompany exhibit loans: education and performing arts programs, expert speakers, teacher workshops, the Learning Lab website for educators and technical assistance. Smithsonian Affiliations also offers career development workshops for museum professions, stipend internships for Affiliate-based students, and stipend research opportunities for Affiliate-based visiting professionals. 
Current collaborations with the Smithsonian include: