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Bastrop means business – The Art Institute of Austin is headed to town

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

“This is a town in search of a college, and we are a college in search of a town, and together we are going to become a college town”, said Claude Brown, chancellor of the Art Institute of Austin (AAI) school system, at a special event held on August 8th to announce their plans to move to Bastrop. His words energized the crowd as he went on to explain what this new partnership means for the Bastrop community.Claude Brown, Chancellor of the Art Institutes (Terry Hagerty Photos)

The plans to open a Bastrop campus in summer 2020 are the culmination of hard work by countless entities and the school’s intent to ardently serve advanced education in the Bastrop County area, officials said at a welcoming ceremony on Thursday. Close to100 people gathered for the ceremony at 921 Main Street, where a $1.4 million building to house the school will be commissioned by the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation.

In her welcoming remarks, Mayor Connie Schroeder said the Art Institute of Austin will be a “long-term job-creating tenant” for Bastrop. Referring to the project coming to fruition, Schroeder added, “This project didn’t happen overnight” and reflected intense efforts by local officials. She particularly complimented Jean Riemenschneider, who heads up the BEDC’s workforce and education program and also server as project manager.

There was a large turnout at 921 Main Street to welcome the Art Institute of Austin to Bastrop.

This will be the first institution of higher learning located in Bastrop. Officials say the institute will “bring many jobs to the city over the course of the next 10 years, and the student community will create a positive economic impact.” The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston, is a nonprofit institution with programs in the areas of design, fashion, media arts, and culinary, according to its website.

As Brown explained the vision of AAI’s new leadership, these students will be able to “step out onto Main Street and be immersed in the experiences of everything they’ve learned in this space. Here’s a place where students can graduate, work together, and start their own production company, start their own design company, start to build a part of the economy of this town for themselves in a way that is very different than what they can do in Austin, or Atlanta, or Miami.”

Mark Rose with the Lost Pines Art Center and Mayor Connie Schroeder speaking with John Robison of New Republic Studios.Instruction at Additional Locations – The institute has a soon-to-be finalized agreement with the BEDC for a 10-year lease for the Main Street location, where a two-story structure will be built. There are also leases with Bastrop’s Lost Pines Art Center and Elgin’s New Republic Studios to provide additional instructional/working space. A variety of programming will be offered at the two facilities in addition to the main downtown campus. Construction begins later this month for the Main Street facility with completion set for June 2020 and student enrollment beginning that summer. Renovations at the Lost Pines Art Center and silos will begin in late 2019.

Bastrop’s ‘Commitment to the Arts’ – Brown, said at the ceremony that there is “a deep history of commitment to the arts” in Bastrop. He said the institute “will provide college students an opportunity to put into practice what they learn” while benefiting the Bastrop-area community. He added “it’s important for a college to support (its) community” and vice versa, and said that has definitely been his experience in his interactions with Bastrop.

Chris White, a graduate of Bastrop High School and currently enrolled at the Art Institute of Austin, had strong praise for the school and its faculty. He is studying digital film and video production while working for the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce. White said he likes that students get individual attention from teachers in addition to classroom work. “They work independently with me. I have professors that really want to see me succeed. They take pride in watching me grow.”