Proposed plans for state music museum stirring controversy

Austin could soon be home to a state music museum. It seems fitting, but not everyone agrees. There's already controversy from other cities and private museums.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee left the bill pending Tuesday afternoon. That means supporters and opponents will continue their fight.

"These are the old one's. They're from the 70's and 80's," says Texas music icon Ray Benson, Asleep at the Wheel.

If you step foot inside the studio of Texas music icon Ray Benson, you would say he has a museum himself. It's no surprise that he is a big supporter of having one built by the state.

"I moved here 45 years ago because of the music and became a Texan. I played Texas music because of the allure of it. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, Flaco Jimenez," says Benson. 

Senate Bill 1147 is co-authored by Sen. Kirk Watson. It plans to create a state museum to preserve, recognize, and celebrate the rich and varied heritage of Texas music and Texas musicians. The proposed idea is for it to sit right across the street from the Bob Bullock State History Museum and the Blanton Museum of Art.

"The reason we're advocating, is because this is the state capitol. That is the Bob Bullock Texas Museum, that is the Blanton Art Museum, that is the University of Texas and this fits in very well. They've already allocated space and buildings that are going to be built," says Benson.

Other cities don't think the process is fair. They would like a chance to compete for the museum.
Benson says regardless, it's a building - what you put in it is what really matters.

"What about rhythm and blues, what about blues, what about rock and roll, what about classical, what about conjunto, what about mariachi - there's dozens and dozens. What about cajun music, etc. That is what is great about Texas, we have the most varied and eclectic music around. We should celebrate all of it," says Benson.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee heard from both sides on Tuesday. Then there are the private museums. Many think building a state museum would eventually put them out of business.

"It's like, we've gone and done something that nobody else was doing for so many years. Instead of the state coming and saying, 'hey thank you for doing this.' It's kind of like they came and just gave us a big punch in the gut and said, 'get out of here.' We're really disheartened by that," says Thomas Kreason, founder, Texas Musicians Museum in Irving.

What they want is to be involved in the process. Benson says that has been the case and will continue to be.

"It's what they call traveling exhibits. Every museum does it. Every one of these museums is necessary for the success of this new museum and that's the bottom line," says Benson.

Under the bill, no state money would be used. Instead, the museum would be operated by the State Preservation Board. They would be responsible for fundraising.

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