Why Pump Project Relocated

Over the last 13 years Pump Project’s mission has been to provide affordable studios and exhibition space to Austin’s artists. During this time, we’ve struggled with landlords, rent increases, and code enforcement issues. In the past year, all these things converged when the building we have called home for over a decade was sold and we were forced to look for a new location.

We are excited about the future of Pump Project and all the opportunities we will have in our new location. However, we know many have questions about why we had to relocate from our old space at 702 Shady Ln. This is a brief overview of how we got where we are.

Pump Project started in February 2005 after a group of artists could not find studio spaces in Austin. We started naively and built out studio spaces on the cheap. Over time, the studio amenities improved as well as the number of studios – in the end, we had 32 studios spaces, 45 artists, two galleries, and a great community.

AUSTIN CODE

In the fall of 2015, Austin CODE gave notice of required upgrades. With the landlord unwilling, we were on our own for funding the upgrades. Thankfully we had LINK Architects helping us navigate the difficult byzantine process on a pro-bono basis and the support of the greater arts community.

While some of the CODE improvements made sense, the number of bathrooms required by CODE was ridiculous, and almost doubled the cost of improvements to $120,000 – about half our yearly budget. We persevered, and with the help of the arts community, we were able to extend a City of Austin program that was originally limited to music venue code improvements to one that would cover any arts spaces and was rebranded as Arts Space Assistance Program (ASAP), and eventually we received a $41,000 matching grant.

The CODE issue took nearly two and a half years and $20,000 in fees – the last hitch to getting the ASAP funding was signing a ‘Letter of Intent’ from the landlord agreeing to extend our lease to five year, which both parties signed at the end of summer 2017.

On the cusp of the CODE construction process, the landlord decided to sell the building. After six months, they found a buyer with plan to use it for their business. Since we essentially had no lease, with new owner eager to begin the remodeling process on an aggressive timeframe, our best move was to vacate the premises in order to relocate our artists in temporary lodgings.

The Search to Relocate

Due to the CODE issue, we had already been looking for potential spaces to relocate to for over two years. Unfortunately, there was nothing in our affordability range. Either we had to get a cheap warehouse shell and begin the build out or get an expensive lease and be forced to raise prices on studios to a point where we would no longer be able to fulfill our mission of providing affordable studios for artists.

We are not the only arts organization caught up in the venue space crisis. The arts community has been trying to work with the city for years to see if there might be city land or spaces available, but has yielded no result – however, the city did come up with stop-gap solutions such as the Art Space Assistance Fund, and repurposing existing city facilities for after hours use. But these solutions did not fit our organization’s model.

We continued to reach out to anybody who would listen, and while people were empathetic to the overall situation, no solutions were forthcoming - except one.

THE POP

Austin Creative Alliance has been at the forefront of the Arts Venue Crisis, looking at what has worked in other cities to try and figure out a solution. ACA found a development partner, and “The Pop” was formed as a four year temporary arts space for six arts organizations at very low rates.

We are very thankful for this opportunity, as without this our future looked dim. We have a lease of three years at The Pop after which we hope to have solidified the location of our permanent home. At the interim space we will have the opportunity to increase the number of studios we offer, the artists we serve, and can begin expanding our programming to classes, community spaces, workshops and more. We hope to use this opportunity to look for new and diverse sources of revenue for our artists and our organization.