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City of Austin offers summer training for arts groups

Free classes help artists tune their business skills.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Lauren Tuttle, right, of public relations company Wyatt Brand leads a class in social media for creative professionals at Austin City Hall. Attendees include, from left, Lisa Dirks and Sarah Massey of the Miracle Foundation, Claire Sudolsky with Art on Fifth and Octavio Arellanes with Met Life.

The first day of summer school for Austin's creative class began when more than 40 people from nonprofit organizations and creative sector businesses as well as individual artists filled a conference room at City Hall recently.

The first class? Social Media 101 for Cultural Creatives.

It's the beginning of more than 30 workshops that the city's Cultural Arts Division will offer for free this summer.

Should your arts group link its Facebook page to its Twitter account? What's the best kind of message to tweet?

Those were some of the questions posed during the three-hour workshop.

David Gutierrez, a painter as well as the artistic director of La Peña, the Congress Avenue nonprofit Latino arts gallery, said he was there "to see how (social media) could work for us."

"Personally, I've been online for years, but (social media) is a whole new level, a new way to get to people," he said. The social media class was only the first free city workshop Gutierrez planned to attend this summer, he said.

Presenting the 33 workshops and other educational events costs the city about $38,000, CAD officials said. The majority of the funding comes from two grants the city received: $15,500 from the Texas Commission on the Arts and $20,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grants were matched with $3,000 from CAD's operating budget. CAD is a division of the city's Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office.

"This is the most funding that we've been able to put toward the program," said Janet Seibert, the city's civic arts program coordinator. "And so it's the largest program we've been able to offer."

The city started offering free workshops for artists four years ago, but those classes were devoted to issues surrounding public art. Seibert said that after gathering feedback from arts groups, as well as gleaning information from the city's CreateAustin Cultural Plan, educational opportunities were developed specifically to help artists tune up their business skills.

Workshops that will be offered this summer include advanced grant writing, multicultural marketing and establishing a nonprofit corporation. In July, a national consultant will talk on the role of arts in enlivening business districts. And later this summer, there will be a brown-bag open forum on cultural tourism and destination marketing.

Though representatives attended from organizations such as Ballet Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, it wasn't just arty types signing up for the free classes.

Nonprofit human services organizations including SafePlace and the Miracle Foundation sent staff members to the social media class.

"We've come to realize that creativity and the culture of creativity in Austin can be defined broadly, so we like to have a diversity of participants," Seibert said. "We see a lot of creative industry entrepreneurs signing up, too."

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

Take It to the Next Level program

To register or get more information about the classes, visit www.cityofaustin.org/nextlevel .