Austin Museum of Art turns down lease renewal, faces daunting laundry list of tasks

Amy Thornton

The Austin Museum of Art announced last week that it would not renew the lease in October for its downtown space, adding to the list of major changes the nonprofit is currently undergoing.

The organization’s to-do list includes searching for a new executive director, developing a strategic plan and redefining the organization’s mission.

Since the lease of 823 Congress Ave. was not intended to be permanent when it was originally signed 15 years ago, AMOA Board President Lynn Sherman said the announcement is not sudden or a surprise.

“We’ve been found on the wrong end of the economic cycle in the past,” Sherman said. “We are taking deliberative actions to avoid that and approaching it differently this time.”

AMOA is looking in the downtown area for an interim space to be used for office and exhibit purposes, as well as focusing on Laguna Gloria, the 12-acre historical estate in West Austin that was the nonprofit’s birthplace.

AMOA also gained $21 million from the sale of the lot at Fourth and Guadalupe streets to Travis County in December. The funds from the sale combined with the freedom from the expensive market rate of the lease gives the organization more economic flexibility.

The allocation of the relatively new funds is still to be determined, but Sherman said AMOA intends to maintain its commitment to the arts community and arts education.