Downtown Austin CEOs have a unique perspective regarding traffic concerns and how they impact local businesses. Meredith Powell is Executive Director of Art Alliance Austin, a downtown non-profit advancing the city through art, culture, and creativity in public life dedicated to bolstering Austin’s art community by supporting local artists and art organizations through the commission of active public art and the production of events that bring artists and the community together while generating economic and community benefit for the entire city. Art Alliance Austin’s events provide a meeting place for artists, collectors, leaders, educators, galleries, museums, and casual participants to generate cultural, social, and economic impact at the intersection of life and art.
Q: At the recent 20 Ft Wide installation, what sort of expectations did Art Alliance Austin have for the alley activation? Was it well received?
A project without a precedent, the 20ft Wide team had no real expectations on how many people would experience the project. The diversity of age, race, profession, uses and program was truly one of the most magical results of the project reiterating the importance of dynamic public space. Coming by car, bike and foot, for some it was a destination, for others an unexpected discovery. We had more than 1,500 people attend the programmed events and many more experienced the alley on their own.
Q: What are the biggest concerns you have about transportation in and around downtown?
As a community, we haven’t voted for bold, transformational change. What are we afraid of?
Q: How should we think about or rethink mobility in downtown and what is your/Art Alliance Austin’s role in that?
Generally speaking, we’re still of the mindset that the City needs to provide the solutions when in fact we all have a role in solving our city’s most difficult issues. Art Alliance Austin commissions public art projects and hosts events to help the community discover their connection to this place and then their role in making it better. We use art to provide interesting, fresh and diverse ways to spark imagination and challenge participation as we all seek more sustainable and creative approaches to building an adaptive, resilient, and livable city.
Mobility is poised to be one of Austin’s greatest challenges in the 21st Century and it can’t be solved without people actively participating in achieving the solutions.
When I was growing up in the ‘burbs, my first thought when mapping a route was to determine which streets to drive on and where to park once I got there. After living nearly twenty years in Austin, and the past ten in downtown, I no longer think of my car first. We have made significant investments in bike lanes, trail systems, rail and rapid transit, but it will take a lot of us deciding these transportation options are the way we want to enjoy Austin.
Q: Do you have additional art projects on the horizon that cater to and encourage urban pedestrians and cyclists?
Art Alliance Austin will continue to integrate art, culture and creativity into daily public life. Whether engaging through case studies like 20ft Wide, active public art projects like the Red Swing Project and Play Me, I’m Yours, comprehensive mobility programs for Art City Austin and other downtown festivals, or partnering on another Pop-Up Commuter Breakfast, I have no doubt there will be future projects working to advance the city’s urban mobility initiatives.
Q: What would you like to see Movability Austin, Cap Metro, or someone else do to help with transportation into and around downtown?
Let’s try, test, pilot, fund, learn, take risks and above all face the issues head on with a multi-disciplinary team that includes artists and other creative people at the table.
We’ve had the pleasure of speaking with a number of Austin’s “New Breed of Entrepreneurs,” check out what others in this series had to say about downtown mobility here.