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How Artist Space Matters

Impacts and Insights from Three Case Studies drawn from Artspace Projects’ Earliest Developments

October 24, 201024 October 2010

Creative neighbourhoods and their social and economic benefits

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This report examines the social, economic and physical impacts of three arts development projects in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, based on interviews with over 100 people and other data sources. The facilities include two artists’ cooperatives and a centre for visual arts.

The report finds that “these artist spaces have produced clear benefits for in-house arts tenants and the surrounding neighborhood and region”. More specifically, the study “found evidence that these artist spaces support, attract, and help retain artist entrepreneurs who enhance the regions’ economic competitiveness”. Specific economic and social benefits include drawing visitors to the area (who engage in ancillary spending), increasing civic involvement and safety, as well as “providing new spaces open to the public”.

However, there is some variation in the nature and strength of the impacts between the three sites. Many factors influence the impacts, including differing neighbourhood contexts, project objectives, physical designs and operating structures. Artists and arts organizations interviewed for the project indicated that “only a critical mass of arts activity triggered broad physical, economic and social benefits”.

Arts tenants were very pleased with all three developments. A majority of artists indicated that the spaces worked well for them in terms of affordability and design. The artists “reported boosts to their professional reputations and identities as artists” as well as increased productivity and time spent making art. The arts facilities enhanced networking and collaboration, including sharing of equipment, knowledge and skills. However, there was not a uniform result in terms of income gains for the artists in the three facilities.

Like artists, arts organizations experienced synergies from their close proximity to one another. Specific attributes sought by arts organizations include “stability, affordability, specific physical characteristics, good maintenance, and shared governance”.

Community members appreciated opportunities for public access to the arts spaces through cafes, open-studio events, art crawls, arts businesses, and arts organizations. Community members credited two of the arts developments “with catalyzing the redevelopment of neighboring properties” and providing the area “with lasting artist cachet”. Regarding potential gentrification and displacement, the report “found few red flags suggesting that [the three arts developments] contributed to gentrification-led displacement”.

The report indicates that the results will help Artspace Projects better communicate the impacts of their projects to both primary stakeholders and a broader audience, thereby strengthening the case “for creating and maintaining affordable space for the arts and creative sector”.

Given that the findings are based only on three arts developments, the report cautions that “neither the impacts nor insights on factors driving outcomes will extend to all artist spaces”.

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