Artist Space Development: Making the Case

The Urban Institute,
01 April 2008, USA

The development of affordable spaces for artists to live and/or work is certainly an important matter for artists, but it can also be an important issue for people concerned with a range of social issues, including economic development, civic engagement, community collective action, and community quality of life. This report considers how artist space developments have been positioned and the arguments made to garner support for them, the advocacy strategies used, and the impacts claimed or anticipated.

In recent years, leaders in the fields of the arts, community development and urban planning have begun to turn their attention to artists’ space development projects, including live-work spaces, studios, affordable housing for artists, and artist-run multipurpose spaces. While many different kinds of these developments exist around the country, little research has focused on how artist space projects come to fruition or on the kinds of impacts they have on artists and communities.

To begin to address this void, the Urban Institute, commissioned by a national initiative dedicated to providing a range of supports for artists called Leveraging Investments in Creativity (linc), conducted a research study that focused on selected artist space projects in seven cities throughout the United States. Rather than an exhaustive examination of all artist space developments, researchers focused primarily on the most prominent development projects that could serve as examples of a range of approaches.

Artists, developers, foundations and corporate sponsors, lenders, private investors, municipal leaders, advocates become involved in the development of artists’ spaces for many reasons, including:To create spaces suitable for artists’ special needs
To create or enhance artists’ communities and stimulate the production of innovative art work
To catalyze economic investment in disinvested neighborhoods
To bring more vibrancy to blighted areas, sometimes as a business venture
To give places a competitive economic edge as well as an advantage in terms of quality of life

The report discusses
(a) how the developments, which have required the infusion of outside resources, have positioned themselves and the arguments they have made to garner support;
(b) the advocacy strategies they have pursued; and
(c) the impacts they claim and/or anticipate.