Iím delighted that, in the 17 years I have been writing for the American-Statesman, my last story as the staff arts critic/reporter is about an institution that has lately proved how art can respond to its community and its time.

READ: Contemporary Austinís downtown museum gets a new look, new spaces

With its recent remodel of its downtown venue, and its continuing development of its sculpture park and its bold new installation on Congress Avenue, the Contemporary Austin proves how a nimble and progressive mindset makes it relevant to the city Austin is today.

And the museum does so while not losing sight of the museumís own legacy as a foundation of Austinís early cultural forays.

READ: 100 Years of Art: With Laguna Gloria, Clara Driscoll laid foundation for art in Austin

It is not my decision to leave the American-Statesman. The paperís leadership has elected to eliminate my position.

We all benefit from Austinís vibrant and democratic arts community. Whether a frequent participant or a sometimes participant, or even if rarely a participant, the cultural arts resonant in Austin with a kind of openness, accessibility and innovation thatís often lacking in other cities.

In the 17 years I have been at the American-Statesman ó and in the 25+ years Iíve been in Austin ó Iíve seen the cityís cultural community grow exponentially. And not just by the numbers, as Austin remains one of the nationís fastest-growing and list-topping cities.

Austinís cultural community has most importantly grown in depth, sophistication, diversity, resourcefulness, leadership and innovation. Itís a scene that is a dynamic force in the state, eyeballed (and envied) by people around the nation, around the world.

READ: Ballet Austin embarks on a pioneering 5-week tour to China

Yes, Austinís major institutions have grown exponentially. But just as important are this cityís bold, independent organizations and its enterprising individual artists and collectives. And they need the publicís support, attendance and attention just as much.

READ: Austinís One Ounce Opera is for everyone

The artist-initiated ó and often delightfully scrappy ó experiments, collaborations, temporary happenings and risk-taking, give Austinís creative character its character.

The arts matter in Austin, small or big, traditional or experimental. And they always will.

Find me at jcvanryzin.com

Austin theater company the Rude Mechanicals perform ďThe Method GunĒ at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, 2010, Actors Theatre of Louisville. (Left to right: Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Thomas Graves.) Photo by Alan Simons.