The Art Institute Austin/Google reviews

In tragic news for higher education, the Art Institutes, a network of colleges in eight cities around the U.S. including Dallas, is shutting down all campuses as of September 30.

The organization announced its closure with short notice on September 22 via an email sent out to staff and students, attributing the close to "external and internal" events over the past 10 years, including COVID-19.

They called the closure the result of "a culmination of events over the past decade, both external and internal to the campus operations. ... The colleges, which already were dealing with the legacy challenges that arose under prior ownership, were unable to absorb the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on schools teaching hands-on and equipment-intensive programs such as culinary arts and fashion design.”

Students were advised to review their contact information on the institute's portal and update mailing addresses if needed, as well as download their student ledger and unofficial transcript.

Academic and financial aid staff will be available on campus through the end of 2023.

"Due to the timing of this decision, The Art Institutes have not had sufficient time to engage with other colleges and universities in their respective markets to sign formal agreements for students to transfer and continue their studies elsewhere," they said in a statement. "The Art Institutes are working with state agencies and The Art Institutes' accrediting agency, Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to identify appropriate academic transfer opportunities for students affected by this closure."

The closures affect all of the remaining eight campuses:

  • Miami International University of Art & Design
  • The Art Institute of Atlanta
  • The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
  • The Art Institute of Dallas, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design
  • The Art Institute of Houston
  • The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
  • The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design
  • The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta

Although the announcement was abrupt, the Atlanta campus had been listed for lease on September 5, according to CoStar.

At one point, the organization had dozens of campuses across the U.S., but in recent years had endured instability, including two changes in ownership since 2017 and legal troubles over student loans.

According to Higher Ed Dive, their troubles go back a decade to their former owner, the for-profit Education Management Corp, who closed 15 locations before selling off the rest to the Dream Center Foundation, a faith-based organization that set it up as a nonprofit.

The email further states that "The Art Institute colleges were once were part of one of the largest providers of career education in the U.S. and were an important source of design, media arts, fashion, and culinary professionals to fulfill the needs of the local and national employers who sought out Art Institute graduates. Since its founding, The Art Institutes, individually and collectively, provided an academic experience for students who sought education in academic disciplines based in creativity, innovation, and emerging technology. This closure does not diminish the many and varied contributions that The Art Institutes have made to higher education and the knowledge and skills that alumni have taken into their respective fields of culinary, design, fashion, and media following graduation."

UT Austin/Facebook

UT Austin earns No. 6 ranking on new list of best public universities in U.S., plus more top stories

Hot headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From the best schools in America to the best efforts at getting everyone health care, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. UT Austin earns No. 6 ranking on new list of best public universities in U.S. Niche, an education review and ranking website, has deemed UT Austin the sixth best public university in the U.S., up from No. 8 last year.

2. Admirable Austin high school ranks among top 50 in America, says U.S. News. The 2023 rankings put Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy at No. 32 nationally (up from No. 34 last year).

3. Former All Things Considered journalist curates live world music series in unexpected Austin spot. One of John Burnett's retirement pursuits is World Music Encounters, a nine-part performance and interview series.

4. Texas is looking healthy as the 2nd best state for nurses, Forbes says. Texas currently employs more than 231,000 nurses, the second-highest number in the country behind California's 325,620 nurses.

5. Hundreds of cancer survivors and supporters will paddle 21 miles through Austin in 10-hour ride. This September 11, paddlers will join forces to raise funds for mental health services for people affected by cancer.

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Admirable Austin high school ranks among top 50 in America, says U.S. News

superior schools

Several Austin high schools are continuing their streak of top appearances on a prestigious annual list of the country's best public high schools.

The 2023 rankings from U.S. News & World Report, released August 29, put Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts and Science Academy at No. 32 nationally (up from No. 34 last year) among the country’s best high schools. The school also ranks No. 34 nationally among the best STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) high schools (up from No. 70 in 2022).

Also in the top 100 nationally is the Richards School for Young Women Leaders, ranking No. 95 after previously ranking No. 128 in 2022.

Topping the national list for 2023 is the Early College at Guilford in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Each year, U.S. News evaluates about 18,000 high schools on six factors: college readiness, reading and proficiency, reading and math performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rates.

"Having access to a strong high school program is paramount for students as they face an ever-changing world," said U.S. News' managing editor of education Liana Loewus in a release. "Making data on our high schools available helps parents ensure their child is in the educational environment that best sets them up to thrive."

Elsewhere in Texas
Around the state, these Texas high schools also made it into the top 100 nationally:

  • Dallas ISD's The School for the Talented and Gifted, No. 6 (up from No. 8 last year and No. 13 in 2021). No. 8 nationally among the best STEM high schools for the second consecutive year and No. 2 among the best magnet high schools (up from No. 4 last year).
  • Dallas ISD's Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School, No. 18 (up from No. 20 last year) and No. 8 nationally among the best magnet high schools for the second consecutive year.
  • Dallas ISD's Science and Engineering Magnet School, No. 23 nationally among the best high schools (down from No. 22 last year), No. 24 nationally among the best STEM high schools (down from No. 7 last year), and No. 2 nationally among the best magnet high schools (up from No. 10 in 2022).
  • Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, No. 35 (up from No. 40 last year and No. 42 in 2021).
  • Houston ISD’s DeBakey High School for Health Professions, No. 66 (down from No. 50 last year and No. 46 in 2021). No. 18 nationally among the best magnet high schools.
  • BASIS San Antonio - Shavano Campus, No. 81 (down from No. 77 last year and No. 102 in 2021). No. 41 nationally among the best STEM high schools (down from No. 25 in 2022) and No. 17 nationally among the best charter high schools.
  • Dallas ISD's Trinidad Garza Early College at Mt. View, No. 91 (up from No. 118 last year).
  • Dallas ISD’s Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet, No. 93 (down from No. 48 last year and No. 59 in 2021) . No. 25 nationally among the best magnet high schools (down from No. 17 in 2022).
  • Houston ISD's Young Women's College Prep Academy, No. 94 (up from No. 148 last year). No. 26 nationally among best magnet high schools.

Among just the Texas schools, Austin's Liberal Arts and Science Academy (No. 4) ranked within the top five best-rated public high schools this year, U.S. News says.

Other Austin-area schools that rank among Texas' top 100 best are:

  • No. 11 – Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Austin ISD
  • No. 41 – Westlake High School, Eanes ISD, Austin
  • No. 49 – IDEA Montopolis College Preparatory, Austin
  • No. 56 – Meridian School, Round Rock
  • No. 61 – Chaparral Star Academy, Austin
  • No. 65 – Westwood High School, Round Rock ISD, Austin
  • No. 98 – Colorado River Collegiate Academy, Bastrop ISD
  • No. 99 – Vandegrift High School, Leander ISD, Austin
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9 essential things to know about Texas' tax-free weekend 2023

tax free weekend guide

For kids, stocking up on school supplies is one of the only joys of going back to school. For parents who have to pay for them, not so much: Americans are expected to spend nearly $600 per child on backpacks, sneakers, calculators, and more this back-to-school season. Texas' tax-free weekend helps ease the burden some.

This year's "sales tax holiday" — when shoppers can save about $8 for every $100 spent on qualifying items — takes place Friday, August 11 through Sunday, August 13 (at midnight). Note that it's a week later than it has been in past years, and after some schools go back to class.

To yield the best bang for your buck, here are nine top tips and essential things to know about tax-free weekend 2023:

What school supplies qualify for the tax exemption?
There is a specific list of school supplies that are tax free during the weekend, but they have to be priced at under $100 (most are, as long as the customer not buying in bulk). The school supplies that qualify for the tax exemption are:

  • Binders
  • Blackboard chalk
  • Book bags and lunch boxes
  • Calculators
  • Cellophane tape
  • Compasses, protractors, and rulers
  • Composition books, legal pads, and notebooks
  • Folders – including expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila folders
  • Glue, paste, and glue sticks
  • Pencils, pencil sharpeners, pens, highlighters, markers, dry erase markers, crayons, and erasers
  • Index cards and index card boxes
  • Paper – including loose leaf ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, construction paper, and poster board
  • Pencil boxes and other school supply boxes
  • Scissors
  • Writing tablets

What about school supply kits? Do they qualify?
There is no limit on the number of school supplies in kits, but certain kits that contain both taxable and tax-free items will have a taxability that depends on the value of the items. According to the Texas Comptroller, if the value of the exempt items is worth more than the taxable items, the kit will be tax free. However, if the value of the taxable items comes out to more than the exempt items, then the kit will be taxed.

What clothing items qualify for the tax-free exemption?
Most footwear and clothing items that are sold for less than $100 are exempt from tax. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items a customer can buy, as long as they ring up for under the $100 price tag. (Sorry, parents of athletes, most sports shoes and gear aren't eligible; see below.)

An example given from the Texas Comptroller's website is that a person shopping in-store can purchase two shirts for $80 each while still qualifying for the exemption despite the total purchase price coming out to $160.

What other items are eligible to be tax-free?
Cloth and disposable fabric face masks (including those which are sold with a filter); student backpacks that are sold for less than $100 (including those with wheels and messenger bags). If a shopper is purchasing more than 10 backpacks tax-free at one time, they will have to present the seller with an exemption certificate.

A full list of qualifying items (and taxable ones) can be found on the Comptroller's website.

What doesn't qualify for the tax-free exemption?
Despite a long list of general footwear and clothing items that fall under the tax-free weekend umbrella, there are certain items that are still taxable, including:

  • Specific protective athletic shoes or clothing, such as cleats, shoulder pads, dance shoes, helmets, shin guards, and others
  • Industrial or medical grade face masks (such as N95s or others that are primarily used as PPE), and replacement face mask filters
  • Clothing subscription boxes
  • Clothing or footwear rentals, alterations, embroidery, and cleaning services
  • Fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, and other items that are typically used to repair clothing
  • Accessories like jewelry, handbags, umbrellas, watches, wallets, and more
  • Computers, computer bags, and software
  • Textbooks
  • Baggage items like framed backpacks, luggage, briefcases, purses, and athletic/gym bags
  • Any unspecified school supplies that are NOT on the exemption list above

Where can customers shop and save during tax-free weekend?
Purchases can be made in store, as well as online, over the phone, through the mail, and through custom orders. It only matters that the purchase of the item take place between August 11-13.

Does the cost of shipping affect taxability?
Yes it does - the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has deemed a seller's delivery, shipping, handling, and transportation charges as part of an item's sale price if a person is not shopping in-store. An example provided by the Comptroller's website is as follows: "You buy a pair of jeans for $95 with a $10 delivery charge for a total price of $105. Because the jeans’ total price is more than $100, tax is due on the entire $105 price."

What happens if a shopper bought a tax-exempt item during the weekend that was taxed anyway?
The customer would have to request a refund from the seller on the tax paid for the item. The seller can grant the refund to the buyer, or provide them with Form 00-985, Assignment to Right to Refund, which would allow the customer to file a claim for their refund through the Comptroller's website.

Can a customer get a rain check for a qualifying item during the tax-free weekend?
No, any rain check given during the tax-free weekend does not qualify the item for exemption.

More information about tax-free weekend can be found on the Texas Comptroller's website.

Greenlights Grant Initiative / YouTube

Camila and Matthew McConaughey launch new grant initiative to make schools safer


In the 14 months that have passed since the Robb Elementary school shooting, Matthew McConaughey and his wife Camila Alves have been at work. The couple has created a new initiative through their Just Keep Livin Foundation (stylized just keep livin) to bridge the gap between school districts and federal funding for school safety.

The Greenlights Grant Initiative, which launched July 20, provides schools, teachers, and families easier access to grant writing support and funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) that became law in June 2022.

The act allocates funding to help school districts create safer environments for their students through mental health support and gun control measures, but has been criticized for its complexity and accessibility issues.

"While the legislation is crucial in protecting America’s youth from violence, it remains far too difficult for school districts to apply for and receive federal school safety grants," said the couple in a statement. "[The] launch of the Greenlights Grant Initiative is a meaningful step toward providing school districts across the country the grant writing support and the resources they need to keep kids safe in our schools."

The shooting at Robb Elementary was devastating for the entire community, including Uvalde-born McConaughey, who met with families of the victims in 2022 before his visit to the White House to advocate for bipartisan gun safety. The couple has made their support for children widely known, even writing a recently announced children's book.

McConaughey and Alves continued, "The parents in Uvalde asked us to do one thing – to ‘make their lives matter.' We hope the Greenlights Grant Initiative can help do just that."

In addition to helping districts receive funding to improve school safety, the initiative will also provide them with in-depth tutorials and resources, and free grant writing services to certain "high-need, low capacity districts." The project will also push lawmakers to simplify the grant-making process and improve accessibility.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is a co-chair of the Greenlights Grant Initiative, said in a press release that the project will go above and beyond to provide aid after the BSCA has already provided "hundreds of millions of dollars" to schools statewide and nationwide.

"The Greenlights Grant Initiative will take the success of this law one step further by helping connect more schools with available funding and providing resources on navigating the grants process," Cornyn said.

More information about the Greenlights Grant Initiative can be found at greenlightsgrantinitiative.org.

Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash

Austin mall hosts back-to-school fashion show, kindness fair, and supply drive

Kind Is In

Is it just us or is shopping for school supplies actually fun sometimes? Writing always goes better with colored pens. And back-to-school clothes aren't just a necessity for growing kids — they're an opportunity to try something new. But getting the right erasers...okay, it can pretty tedious.

Barton Creek Square, a shopping mall where the MoPac Expressway meets the Barton Creek Greenway, is heralding the new season with a back-to-school festival that makes the obligatory shopping a lot more engaging.

In partnership with its "anchoring retailer" Nordstrom and the Kindness Campaign (TKC), the mall is holding its annual "Barton Back to School Bash" on August 5. There will also be an opportunity to donate school supplies for other kids.

The main event is a fashion show in front of Nordstrom, showing off "the latest trends" available from onsite retailers. The event continues with "lively music," balloon and temporary tattoo artists, and some deeper thinking exercises. Kids are encouraged to be kind, aided by TKC's activities and Enoughie's Magic Mirror.

The Magic Mirror seeks honest self-reflection from users, and gives affirmation in return. A demo on the Kindness Campaign's website shows an earlier iteration for adult women that reminds them of actual successes they've experienced — not just one-size-fits-all encouragement. The activities through the KindArt initiative give a tangible chance for kids to reflect while being creative.

For more tangible bits of kindness, TKC is running a school supply drive with the local branch of Communities in Schools. An online list shows what supplies are still needed, from now until the Back to School Bash. If donors want to get creative — or are prone to impulse buying markers and stickers — they can bring their wares to the event and drop them in the bin inside Nordstrom.

The donated supplies "will go directly back to the Central Texas school districts," according to a release.

The "Barton Back to School Bash" will be held on August 5 from 10 am to 2 pm at 2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. More information about the event is available at simon.com. There are few school supplies sold at the mall, so attendees who plan to donate in-person should pick those items up before the event.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

R&B singer Mélat epitomizes the independent Austin music experience in new album

local releases

Even though Mélat is always busy — appearing in seemingly every major community showcase — she hasn't released a new album in four years. That is, until today.

Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men — with an appropriately grandiose title for the R&B singer's prodigal return — is out on September 29, with 14 gooey tracks incorporating everything from trap beats to gospel harmonies. It follows up 2019's After All: Episode One, with similarly spacious orchestrations and a little more confidence this time around on the songwriter's part.

"I feel like [after] going through COVID and all the things that have happened in the past four years ... it's the dawning of a new era for me," says Mélat. "I feel like I've shed a significant amount of fear, and doubt, and all these things that as humans we have to work to get off of ourselves. It feels like a new beginning for me."

The title of this "foundational" album, in Mélat's words, reaches back to two EPs that the singer has since grown out of, but represented a similar feeling of self-definition as her first-ever releases. First was Canon Aphaea, then Canon Ourania; Both referenced Greek goddesses. This time, Metis — Zeus' first wife, a Titan goddess, and the embodiment of wisdom — was the inspiration.

M\u00e9lat Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal MenThe album cover ties in "Easter Eggs" from Black woman-owned brands: fashion by Savage X Fenty, Black Girl Magic wine by McBride Sisters Wine Company, and an Ethiopian necklace referencing the singer's heritage.Shot by Marshall Tidrick

The subtitle comes from humbler origins than it sounds; probably something she read on Wikipedia, Mélat says, but definitely borrowed nonetheless. The quote also gives a name to a track in which the singer speaks semi-candidly about false idols and the wisdom to duck away from the judgment of "mere mortals."

"I'm like a lot of people in that I can be my worst my own worst critic," she says. "I hate my speaking voice, but I put it on the album [because] my gut was telling me, no, this needs to be said. There are songs that were cut from the album [that were part of] the plan the whole time."

Much of Mélat's local pull comes from her transparency about being an independent artist, which she discusses often on social media and will surely expound upon more when the Austin chapter of Women in Music launches later this year, with her on the leadership team. Nothing about working without a label is foreign to Austin musicians (although the landscape is slowly growing), and the singer confirms that she doesn't "know any other way to do it," but hints of that freedom shine through some tracks.

"Canon Metis," the opening track, pieces together a sort of trailer for the rest of the album with atmospheric synths and spoken announcements by disembodied femme voices — a softly futuristic approach. But "Lambs to Lions" and "The Now" deliver nostalgia via backup vocals and instrumental stylings, while "I.D.M.T.L.Y. (Freestyle)" pares things down to a simple phone recording that the songwriter and her close collaborator, sound engineer, and manager, Pha The Phenom, chose not to develop any further.

No through-lines were questioned. Nothing needed to be justified, except to each other. Both have gotten into meditating, anyway, so it's all about feel.

"I feel like I've gathered all this wisdom," Mélat says. "You can't really trust the quote-unquote gods, which are the shiny things that will distract you ... and you can't really worry too much about the judgment of others, because everybody's just human. I need to do what feels right for me."

There is no tour planned to promote the album yet, but given the singer's track record, it won't be long until something is on the books. A music video for "So Help Me God," incorporates AI technology via Kaiber AI, will be released on October 4.

Listen to Canon Metis: Wiser Than Gods and Mortal Men on your favorite streaming platform.

Unique art sale champions thousands of works by Austin artists who may not have homes

art everywhere

The streets of Austin reveal a vibrant artistic spirit if you know where to look. Art From the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit uplifting unhoused artists, invites art lovers to discover this local creativity at the annual Art Show & Sale on October 21-22.

Art from the Streets sale

Photo courtesy of Art From The Streets

Onlookers look through hundreds of unique art pieces by unhoused Austinites.

Art From the Streets has announced its 31st Annual Art Show & Sale at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, best known for its holiday market. This two-day event will showcase thousands of original artworks from unhoused and at-risk artists in the Austin area, from compelling portraits to vibrant abstracts, all while supporting an amazing creative community.

Attending this event gives the Austin community the special opportunity to meet these artists, hear their stories, and purchase their one-of-a-kind creations, with 95 percent of the art sale proceeds going directly to the artists themselves.

In turn, it provides platform for the artists to proudly display their works, coming into the arts scene in an official, marketable capacity. It brings visibility to their skills and lets them earn income from their passion.

"We believe that these artistic endeavors form a pathway to self-determination, and we invite the Austin community to join us this October in supporting these artists by making connections and purchasing some amazing art," said AFTS executive director Kelley Worden in a press release.

Volunteers form the backbone of AFTS by assisting with a wide range of tasks, from facilitating art creation sessions to helping with exhibition setup and more; the funds that AFTS collects through donations and art sales are directly funneled back into supporting these volunteers' efforts, providing art supplies, covering exhibition costs, and supplying other resources needed to uplift the unhoused artists in the Austin community.

The 31st Annual Art From the Streets Show & Sale will be held at the Blue Genie Art Bazaar from October 21-22. Attendance is free and open to the public, with a suggested $5 donation at the door to help support AFTS' mission of empowering unhoused artists. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Tasteful Austin ice cream shop starts crowdfunding to scoop up new cities

Tastes Like Profit

We're not sure how many licks it takes to get to a popular Austin ice cream shop into new markets, but a crowdfunding campaign gives fans a chance to find out.

Lick Honest Ice Creams, known for interesting, mature flavors (without getting too serious), has launched a campaign via MicroVentures that will allow onlookers a chance to support the business with small investments of $100 or more. Ice cream never goes out of style, and the company is hoping to appeal not just to repeat customers, but anyone who thinks the sweet treat has growth potential.

Although this could be a long-term holding, the root idea is to eventually trade back the stake for a financial gain once the company has grown. In less than two days (since the campaign launched on September 28), Lick has already sold stakes worth more than $66,000 from 90 investors.

“This isn’t just an investment in terms of capital," said CEO Anthony Sobotik in a news release. "It’s an opportunity to own a piece of your favorite ice cream shop, shared memories, and a piece of Lick’s future. By investing, you’re supporting our dream and commitment to spread the Lick experience further, enabling Lick to support family-owned farms in a more significant way, and ensuring more people can truly know what they’re licking."

The ice cream shop has been in Austin since its inception in 2012, and now operates three stores in the area, plus stores in San Antonio, Houston, and College Station. The total store count is currently at eight, with a ninth coming to Houston's Autry Park "soon," according to the website. The release states intentions to use the crowdfunding to "build more scoop shops and expand into new markets," but does not specify which cities the brand is eyeing, or even if they are in Texas or farther away.

Some of the flavors pay homage to their Texas roots, like "Caramel Salt Lick," "Hill Country Honey & Vanilla Bean," and "Texas Sheet Cake." It is easy to see where ingredients come from, as suppliers are listed on the menu. Seasonal flavors right now include creative twists like "Back Porch Iced Tea" and "Fig & Fromage," sticking to Lick's script of interesting and local ingredients. The menu also includes a small number of dairy-free flavors.

“From our first scoop shop opening in 2011 to where Lick is now, it’s been an extraordinary journey. We’ve now served over a million scoops, and with each one, we’ve shared our commitment to and love for thoughtfully crafted, ethically, and sustainably-sourced and produced ice cream,” said Sobotik.

“But beyond just charming your taste buds, our flavors tell stories," he continued. "Those are the stories of favorite dishes, the family and friends we shared them with, and the farmers we work with. It’s a special connection that ice cream grants us, and it’s what really makes this our story, not just Lick’s story.”

More information and links to contribute to the campaign are available at microventures.com.