Citing KUT Radio‘s experience in the music industry, the prospects for financial stability and support from student leaders for the plan, The University of Texas at Austin has created a partnership with the university’s public radio station to continue and enhance the operation of the Cactus Cafe.
In making the announcement, Vice President for Student Affairs Juan González said the plan will preserve the “cultural legacy” of the Cactus Cafe.
“I want to thank everyone who shared opinions, ideas and aspirations regarding the Cactus Cafe with me during the past several months,” González said. “I realize that this decision will not satisfy everyone. But I truly believe that this plan is in the best interests of our students, the community and the viability of the Cactus Cafe.”
The decision was announced after nearly three-and-a-half months of discussion and public input. In late January, the Texas Union advisory board supported a recommendation to restructure the venue, which was underused by students and had been losing money for several years.
KUT will assign a full-time manager to oversee the Cactus Cafe operation and to develop year-round programming and a sustainable business model. KUT is a division of the university’s College of Communication.
The daytime operations and bar will remain under the direction of Texas Union management, according to González. The partnership will take effect in August and include a year-round performance schedule of about 200 nights per year, comparable to the schedule the Cactus Cafe has offered.
González said the partnership has three important features:
- The Cactus Cafe will continue its year-round programming, live music performances and daily bar operations under the KUT-Texas Union partnership. KUT will contact artists, students, Cactus management and community members for input on its plan. KUT has set up an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where people can express their ideas.
- The partnership has strong student support and has benefited from student and community input. A majority of Student Government leaders and the Texas Union Board of Directors are advocates of the partnership, which will provide student-learning opportunities through internship and work-study programs. The plan does not call for continuing a subsidy from students’ tuition.
- KUT will share the Cactus Cafe experience with broader national and global audiences through broadcast programs and online features. KUT will use its content production, fundraising, business management and event promotion capability to make the Cactus Cafe sustainable.
“KUT is honored by the opportunity to carry on the great tradition of the Cactus Cafe,” said Stewart Vanderwilt, director and general manager of KUT Radio, which has a weekly audience of 250,000 and is credited with helping to establish the leading online music destination NPRMUSIC.org. “We believe the Cactus Cafe plays an essential role in the Austin music experience and are committed to preserving and sharing that experience with the UT campus and beyond.”
“KUT has the potential to create an energized, student-focused music venue at the heart of campus,” said Scott Parks, president of Student Government, “and their plan is in line with the values that students have expressed to me from the beginning. It will respect and maintain the character of the café, it will provide the Cactus with a sustainable business model and it will involve more students in the space. I’m excited to represent students as we work with KUT moving forward.”
Initial enhancements may include live broadcasts from the Cactus Cafe, sponsorship opportunities, the ability to reserve tickets in advance, introduction of credit card transactions and downloadable podcasts. This is not the first KUT-Cactus Cafe collaboration. KUT is now digitizing 10 years of “KUT Live at the Cactus” recordings from the 1980s for its musical library.