Track 5: CANADA 150 – INDIGENOUS HERITAGE, DIVERSITY, and NEW DIRECTIONS / Volet 5: Canada 150 – Patrimoine autochtone, diversité et nouvelles orientations

Music Cities: Austin's Red River Cultural District, Nashville's Music Row, and the Pursuit of Cultural Authenticity

Saturday, October 14
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

The Red River Cultural District, officially designated as a cultural district in 2013, is a cluster of live music venues in Austin, Texas. Unlike many venues in downtown Austin that feature primarily cover artists, the music venues in the Red River Cultural District cater to both local and touring original acts. Rapid downtown development is threatening the district’s survival as rising rents and property taxes push out even successful venues. Nashville’s Music Row, a district comprised of recording industry businesses rather than live music venues, is facing similar challenges. Nashville’s quick growth is contributing to the loss of iconic music industry buildings as the area develops. Both cities have developed creative identities based on the narrative of their place as "music cities." Although much of this narrative could be considered contrived or non-representative of each city's true cultural roots, the impact that these narrative-driven identities have had on the economy and growth of each city is undeniably important.

While the Red River Cultural District has only gained its significance as a music district only in the past twenty years, the transitory nature of Austin’s live music scene means that even short-lived music venues serve as symbols of the scene as a whole. This project compares the roles of the Red River Cultural District and Music Row as both tangible economies and as cultural symbols, paying special attention to their physical preservation. I first examine the historic development of the music industry in both cities. Then, I compare the role of authenticity and identity in the preservation of both districts. Finally, I argue that recognizing the complicated relationship between authenticity, symbolism, and the built environment could lead to more sensitive preservation policymaking in both cities.

Learning Objectives:

Kelsey Riddle, MS Historic Preservation

University of Texas at Austin

Kelsey is a recent graduate of the Masters of Science in Historic Preservation program at the University of Texas in Austin. Originally from Arkansas, Kelsey became interested in the intersection between architecture, music, and history while writing her undergraduate thesis at the University of Central Arkansas. She hopes to continue working on projects that involve questions of cultural authenticity, performance, and economic revitalization in the future.


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Jennifer Iredale

Bio – Jennifer Iredale, MSc Historic Preservation, CAHP
Jennifer Iredale has over 35 years’ experience in the field of heritage conservation in Canada and has been instrumental in leading provincial and national heritage initiatives on youth engagement, education, environmental sustainability, and heritage tourism. Previously Director of the Heritage Branch for the Province of BC, she is currently in private practicel with her work focussing on research and writing projects. Jennifer has been recognized through several awards, most recently receiving the BC Museums Association award for’ Outstanding Achievement’.


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Music Cities: Austin's Red River Cultural District, Nashville's Music Row, and the Pursuit of Cultural Authenticity

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Send Email for Music Cities: Austin's Red River Cultural District, Nashville's Music Row, and the Pursuit of Cultural Authenticity