City of Austin hoping to problem-solve through an 'artist's eyes'

Sarah Frankie Linder is a photographer.
She has a studio at "Canopy," an arts complex in East Austin.
Artists like Linder just think a little bit differently than others.  She says on a daily basis she'll have to stop and take a photo of something...and her friends just won't get it.

"Usually the response is someone saying 'I just looked at that and I never would have thought it looks like anything interesting whatsoever and I look at what you made out of it and it's this totally different thing that I never even imagined," Linder said.

It's that type of thinking the City of Austin is hoping to learn from.

Meghan Wells, the Cultural Arts Division Manager for the City has come up with a first-of-its-kind idea for Austin that she says has been a big hit in other major cities: an Artist-In-Residence program.

"I think there's a specific lens that an artist looks at the City through, looks at the world through and I think that lens is really interesting.  And I think it will really lend a unique perspective to the work that we as public servants do in trying to reach the community better and trying to promote the programs that serve the community and trying to connect the city with its constituents,' Wells said.

The City is taking applications now from visual artists who would like to be considered.  This is a pilot program so one artist will be chosen and they'll work in a City department from March to November.  The Watershed Protection Department is the first to try it out.

The City hopes this will help artists as well as Austin become less and less affordable.

"They can't afford to live or work here and they're abandoning their craft or they're moving their practice elsewhere and I really wanted to find a way for us to support them," Wells said.

In the Watershed Protection Department, the plan is to have the artist work in Watershed Education to add creativity to community outreach.

And yes, the artist will be paid -- think of it as a part-time job.  Funds that come from the Economic Development Department and the Innovation Office.

"A lot of people are looking for however big an amount of income it is, just some sort of steady income as well...there's definitely a need there," Linder said.

Linder says she's interested to see how this program turns out and she may apply for it.

"Just being able to look at something and see what can be contributed to it and look at it like a puzzle, I think is just a fascinating idea.  Period," Linder said.

The City says the deadline to apply is February 16th.  And there will be an informative meeting about it at City Hall on January 19th.  You apply online and you can click here to do it:

By the way they're looking for visual artists right now like painters and photographers.  If the program is a hit in the future they may expand it to musicians and actors and more city departments.

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