Hundreds of Austin artists who rely on occasional public events like the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) are facing a dire challenge: due to new zeal in enforcing city regulations, some could be put in a position to make costly upgrades to their home-studios to comply with city fire and building codes in order to welcome visitors. The solution, leave them alone, and continue with the laissez-faire enforcement that has spurred the growth of a buzzing cultural underground? Nope! Adopt a Houston-style no-zoning policy that allows home-based businesses? Hell nope! Let’s have a seminar!
On Friday, September 2 from 3:30-5pm, The Planning and Development Review Department’s Chief Plans Examiner, Joseph “J.B.” Meier, will lead the seminar with representatives from the City’s Development Assistance Center and the Fire Department. City officials will devote the first part of the meeting to explaining resources and processes to help artists with compliance issues and then will open the floor for specific questions. Solutions Studio principal Gary Devin will also be on hand to provide practical advice on how to plan and adapt for code/permitting considerations.
The event is organized by the Austin Creative Alliance, which in July launched a resource center and low-interest loan program to help artists on the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) bring their workspaces up to code in time for the tour in November.
Recalling the last year’s Cathedral of Junk controversy, in which the Austin city code enforcement officials first ordered the demolition of Vince Hanneman’s funky art environment, but later reached an uncomfortable compromise to preserve parts of it after the story hit the national press, it’s clear that Austin needs to reconcile the funky roots with the glossy foliage that nourish, rather than using its new affluence to crack down on the very things that keep Austin weird.