“Artists are their own worst enemies.” I didn’t say that; someone involved in the Austin art community did. This person was referring to artists’ tendency to do things for free. The line of reasoning went something like this: artists do things for free, so they don’t generate money, and they subsequently can’t pay their rent. Whether or not this is completely sound or consistent, it does illustrate a key issue facing Austin artists. Due to recent and rapid city development and increased property value, many of them can no longer afford to stay in east Austin.
Over the past several years, art spaces including Up Collective, Tiny Park, and 727 Studio have closed their doors because their landlords realized it was more lucrative to not rent to artists. While they couldn’t outright physically evict their tenants, these landlords financially evicted them by raising rent to current market values. Under the weight of the sudden and steep costs, the art spaces simply couldn’t stand. This is the same story many have heard time and again across most big cities, and it involves the ugly G word: gentrification. East Austin is certainly subject to it.
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