IATSE’s United Scenic Artists Names First National Director

For the first time in its roughly 130 years of existence, the national crew union representing designers and scenic artists across film, television, commercials and theater has a national director.

On Wednesday the IATSE-affiliated labor group United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, announced that it was elevating Josh Austin to the newly-established role. The Local’s former communications director, Austin will be tasked with overseeing the union’s daily operations and financial health, collaborating with the board, organizing programs and implementing a recently approved strategic plan focused on building influence, engaging members and improving equity at the Local.

More from The Hollywood Reporter

In addition to scenic artists and scenic designers, the more than 5,000-person Local bargains on behalf of costume designers, lighting designers, sound designers, projection designers, computer artists, art department coordinators, costume department coordinators and scenic shop workers.

In a statement, the Local USA 829 Executive Board — which instituted the new position — said the role “offers a critical opportunity to rethink our structures, prioritize initiatives, and begin our journey to implement our Strategic Plan.” As for Austin, “He has the capacity, the know-how, the passion, and the determination to work with each of us in realizing how we can continue to learn and grow together, to meet challenges creatively and inclusively, and to build a union and a community that welcomes, inspires, and uplifts us all.”

Prior to handling communications at the IATSE Local, Austin worked at a number of other labor organizations focused on media and entertainment workers in the New York area. As a communications director at Actors’ Equity Association, Austin sought to boost member engagement and get the union more politically involved; he also managed a demographic study at the union. He then joined the NewsGuild of New York where, as communications and membership director, he worked on organizing efforts, held trainings and developed member communications.

Austin is currently finishing up a PhD in arts administration from the University of Kentucky, where he is researching how organizations can be “at once collaboratively constructed and pragmatically realized,” according to the Local.

“I am truly humbled and grateful to start this new role alongside the Local USA 829 membership,” Austin said in a statement. “Our membership is actively doing the work to acknowledge one another — not only through our crafts, but as kin and colleagues — and committing to doing better for and by each other. It’s incredibly inspiring, and I firmly believe that this historic union is leading the way in labor and in entertainment.”

Best of The Hollywood Reporter