Mexic-Arte Museum could get long-awaited funding through 2018 bond

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The group tasked to put together 2018 bond recommendations landed on a $851 million breakdown Friday.

The Bond Election Advisory Task Force broke the needs down into the following categories:

  • Parkland & Open Space: $117 million
  • Stormwater: $112 million
  • Facilities & Assets: $281 million
  • Affordable Housing: $161 million
  • Transportation Infrastructure: $180 million

Included under facilities and assets are cultural centers, like the Mexic-Arte Museum. The task force is recommending the museum receive $15 million in the 2018 bond.

The Latino museum is reportedly one of just a handful in the United States.

The executive director of the Mexic-Arte Museum, Sylvia Orozco, is also one of the founders. The organization moved from San Antonio to Austin in 1988 and rented the building until 2001, when the city of Austin and museum entered into a services agreement for 50 years.

“We provide free tours, free admission, classes for exhibitions for under-served youth,” Orozco explained, adding, “The building — it needs a lot of improvement.”

The 2006 bond granted the Mexic-Arte Museum $5 million after it asked for $16 million. In those 12 years, the museum says it’s barely touched the money because it’s not enough for the extensive rehabilitation work needed.

A city memo released this week outlines how the upper floor is condemned, city codes are not met and asbestos abatement will potentially be needed moving forward with any renovation work because of the building’s age.

“The systems are old whether it’s plumbing, electrical, structural, I mean the systems totally — we have to bring in everything new,” Orozco said. “There is 18,000 square feet of under-utilized space in downtown Austin and that probably is considered a sin nowadays because of the need for space.”

Right now, there are two floors above the actual museum they can’t use without repairs.

“I’m just real excited,” Orozco told KXAN after Friday’s task force meeting, where she learned the museum would be included in the bond recommendation to council. “When I walk into the museum I mean you look at it, there’s a lot of things you know the lights, it’s not the best quality. But I see it beautiful every day. Because I see it how it can be.”

It’s a vision just waiting to be realized.

“We’re considered shovel-ready, we’ve done the green sheet, the budgets from the city, we’ve done our work,” Orozco said.

The plan is for the Mexic-Arte Museum to contribute another $3.5 million to the renovation work — $23.5 million between those capital campaign dollars, the 2006 bond money and $15 million if the 2018 bond, if passed. The museum would then be able to function on all three floors.

“Our programs have been nationally recognized and we do top quality work. So just think what we can do when we have a full — a beautiful museum,” Orozco said.

The museum received the 2016 National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award, a project of the President’s Committee.

The task force’s bond recommendations will first go to city council for approval and ultimately to the voters in November.

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