Expanding Spaces for Artists to Live and Work
Planning and implementation grants from LINC allowed Creative Communities partner Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), a state agency, to organize and launch the ArtistLink program to provide artists with affordable, stable facilities in which to live and work. The groundwork was laid for this initiative by early research commissioned by MCC and its local partners. Creating Artist Space: Report to the Boston LINC Working Group (2003) outlined key principles in developing artists space, and Creating Artist Space: Resources for Artists, City Officials and Developers (2004) offered a comprehensive guide for action. With this research base, ArtistLink focused on three issues key to the development of artist space: the artists’ needs, public officials’ concerns about community development and revitalization, and developers’ interest in creating financially feasible and sustainable projects that enhance property values.
Since its launch in 2005, the program has facilitated the creation of 83 artist space projects in 42 Massachusetts communities, with a total of 645 new units of live/work or studio space for artists. This impressive track record was the result of a comprehensive approach that included free technical assistance services related to design studies, ownership models, building code compliance, financing strategies, and related themes; web-based services that provided tools for artists, municipalities, and developers; and an up-to-date, searchable database of available artist spaces in the state. ArtistLink also offered a program of pre-development loans to artists that recognized the importance of planning to the success of any project. LINC itself learned much from the Massachusetts model and incorporated planning grants and online information resources in its national Space for Change program.
In the last phase of its work with LINC, ArtistLink supported a challenge grant program for municipalities, which encouraged cities and towns to integrate artist space planning into city-wide economic development activities. It also launched a grants and technical assistance program to help artists’ spaces assess future capital needs—including green building enhancements, safety, accessibility, and the integration of new technologies. Reviewing a community development plan for Gloucester, MA that calls for artists to help bring activity to the commercial downtown, Cultural Facilities Fund Program Director Jay Paget said, “Ten years later, we have the perfect convergence of artists, knowledge, political will, and available property.”