2011 ASSP

How Art Spaces Matter II: The Riverside, Tashiro Kaplan, and Insights from Five Artspace Case Studies and Four Cities

Metris Arts Consulting: Anne Gadwa, Anna Muessig

This report builds on the methodologies of the first How Spaces Matter report (2010) and adds new case studies. It describes the benefits of artist space development for artists and communities, while noting that little hard evidence yet exists for a direct causal relationship between the establishments of art space and gentrification.


Our research distills how and why these art spaces benefit arts tenants and their broader neighborhoods and regions. These spaces strengthen artists’ careers through time and productivity gains, enhanced professional reputations, increased networking, collaboration, and skill, knowledge, and equipment sharing. Some artists experience increased income, and a greater number increase the percentage of income they earn from their artwork. Arts businesses and organizations report similar benefits, and artists and arts groups value the cross-fertilization that occurs from co-housing artists and arts businesses. Beyond the art spaces’ walls, the broader community also benefits. Each of our case studies rehabilitated and repurposed an underutilized historic building and many were credited with spurring physical investment in the vicinity and attracting new residents.

We found scant evidence suggesting these art spaces triggered population displacement, and some preserved art space in once artist-rich neighborhoods with rapidly rising real estate pressures. To varying degrees, these art spaces also delivered social benefits, infusing downtrodden areas with civically active artist residents who help increase safety and livability. The larger community also valued expanded opportunities to participate in arts events and interact with artists. Some spaces serve as nationally and regionally replicated models or anchor arts districts. Through the benefits they offer, art spaces support, attract, and retain artists and other arts entrepreneurs, which can enhance a region’s economic competitiveness. Through increased demand from visitors and artist residents, art spaces also modestly bolster local non-arts businesses.

Across all case studies, interviewees articulated the factors that enhance or handicap successful project outcomes, even though different project objectives, project sizes, tenant mixes, governance structures, and neighborhood contexts drive varied outcomes across case studies. These factors include:


  • Affordable, stable, and physically appropriate space for artists and arts groups
  • Effective internal governance and artist investmentActive, dynamic, and artistically rigorous internal communities
  • Opportunities for public access and engagement
  • Geographic connectivity, arts density, and complimentary community-development initiatives
  • We recommend that art space proponents use these guidelines to strengthen proposed projects or evaluate possible remedies to weaknesses in existing spaces.

“Space-rooted organizations can take more risks because they control the use of their facilities.”