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Texas Senate Approves State Music Museum in Austin

A contentious bill establishing a new Texas state music museum in Austin just passed through the Texas Senate this week. The bill will now go to the House for approval.

Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson drafted the bill in hopes of establishing the museum right near the state capitol building. Since the state plans to put in a new building close to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and Blanton Museum of Art, supporters of the bill argue putting a new music museum there makes perfect sense.

But others see the bill as an affront to other ongoing efforts. Several museum curators believe a state music museum rightfully belongs in Houston. And that the state has money to pay for it.

But Sen. Watson says this bill establishes a music museum at no cost to the state. Which, of course, garners support from across the aisle, too. In fact, the museum would effectively rent space from the state to operate.

In the immediate future, that sounds like an appealing plan for a state that rarely incentivizes or invests in art. But it could also create problems down the road for a museum to not have permanent space and fixture in the Live Music Capital of the World.

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Watson's bill creates a nonprofit foundation in charge of overseeing the museum. Revenue from ticket sales would go right back into the museum. He says keeping it in Austin makes sure priceless artifacts from Texas artists don't go to museums in other places, like Nashville.

Of course, dozens of private museums across the state fear a centralized state museum would ultimately hurt their business. But Watson argues the state museum could actually help them by creating "rotating" exhibits.

A House committee recently approved a nearly identical bill, meaning the Senate bill has a good chance to pass. It made it through the Senate on a vote of 24-6.

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