Mayor Adler talks protecting Austin's art and music scene

Mayor Steve Adler at a December Austin City Council meeting.

Mayor Steve Adler at a December Austin City Council meeting.

When Mayor Steve Adler came to Austin in the late 1970s for law school, he had every intention of returning to Washington, D.C., or New York City when he finished. It was the city’s thriving arts and culture scene that led him to stay.

“The thought of actually living in the South was unfathomable to me, much less Texas,” Adler said. “I fell in love with this place. It’s a magical city because of the music and the art and the creativity and the culture and the spirit.”

Gentrification and rising housing prices put that culture in jeopardy, he said. In a community talk hosted at Saint David’s Episcopal Church Sunday in conjunction with South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals, he addressed how the city is working to ease Austin’s growing pains.

“If we lose [the artist community] in this city, we will become something else,” Adler said.

The city is pursuing creative solutions to the problem. Adler said the city is looking to collaborate with entities in the private market and come up with an answer to preserve affordable housing.

He used San Francisco as an example of what Austin is on the road to becoming if affordability is not made a priority.

Adler said the art and music scene is a huge part of Austin’s identity; SXSW itself is a product of the city’s creativity. It began as a homegrown effort to provide a platform for local musicians in the Austin area and has since grown to become one of the biggest festivals in the world.

“South By Southwest is like having a Super Bowl every year in this city, but it's integrative to who we are," Adler said. “It’s an expression of Austin.”


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