2010 ASSP

How Artist Space Matters: Impacts and Insights from Three Ca

Metris Arts Consulting: Anne Gadwa, Ann Markusen, Nathaniel Walton

Metris Arts Consulting developed three in-depth case studies showing how artist spaces benefit the artists and arts organizations who live and work there, their neighborhoods, and their regions. Artspace Projects, a leading national nonprofit real estate developer for the arts, developed the three spaces in the Twin Cities area: the Northern Warehouse Artists’ Cooperative, the Tilsner Artists’ Cooperative, and the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts. A range of research methods—including interviews, surveys, and statistical modeling—measure the impact of artist space on appreciation in property values, and capture artist spaces’ contributions to neighborhood change and the perceived social, physical, and economic value of such developments. 
Metris Arts Consulting’s data provide ample evidence that the three case study spaces do matter, both for in-house arts tenants and for surrounding neighborhoods and regions. Artists have advanced their careers through shared synergies with others in their buildings, enhanced reputations, and gains in time and productivity. The general public and members of the larger arts communities have increased access to arts offerings. Interviewees not only cited the direct rehabilitation of historic warehouses as a benefit, they also credited the artist spaces with catalyzing other development and providing their neighborhoods with an ongoing cachet. 


Conclusions and Next Steps

Their research allows them to share the Northern’s, Tilsner’s, and Traffic Zone’s impacts, highlight different outcomes, and probe why variations occur. Arts tenants, neighborhoods, and regions reap an array of benefits. These spaces strengthen artists’ careers through time and productivity gains, the enhancement of reputations and identities, and the facilitation of networking and the sharing of equipment, knowledge, and skills. They expand arts offerings, both for the public and for larger arts communities. The artist spaces not only transformed vacant eyesores and restored historic structures; community members also credit them with helping spur area redevelopment and providing lasting artist cachet. Metris’ data indicates these spaces increase area property values, but they found few red flags to indicate that they triggered gentrification-led displacement. The spaces support, attract, and help retain artist entrepreneurs, who in turn enhance regional economic competitiveness. Neighborhood businesses receive boosts from spending by artist residents and visitors. The spaces also contribute modest social benefits, including fostering artists’ civic involvement, providing public gathering spots, and increasing safety.

Interviewees also inferred which factors helped or hindered broad neighborhood and regional outcomes. They thought artists with greater senses of investment in their spaces and neighborhoods would be more civically active and provide more frequent arts offerings to the public. They named factors that increase artists’ vested interests, including spaces with a residential component, literal ownership, and long artist tenures. Some community members thought a critical threshold of artists or arts activity must be reached to trigger spillover benefits. They perceived that live/work spaces, larger spaces and projects developed in areas with a pre-existing density of artists or arts activity add to the requisite critical mass. Physical links to the surrounding neighborhood were thought to help leverage the economic, physical, and social benefits a neighborhood might experience, as opposed to isolated spaces. Interviewees thought higher frequencies of arts events and the presence of arts or community-oriented commercial tenants provide relatively greater public benefits. Lastly, Metris Arts Consulting heard artists and other community members articulate that the challenges faced by artists and Artspace limit their ability to affect broad community goals. By getting their own houses in order, they are better positioned to turn their focus and energies outward. Although, as the evidence illustrates, artist spaces can and do provide neighborhood and regional benefits, Metris views an artist space’s core function as supporting in-house artists and arts organizations. Metris encourages those seeking to use artist space to achieve revitalization objectives to do so in concert with other efforts.

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