Arts and cultural organizations are community anchors contributing to the well-being of neighborhoods. Studies show that neighborhoods with many cultural resources are healthier, better educated, and safer overall than those in similar communities with fewer creative resources1. And yet, even as research underscores the critical role arts and culture play in building equitable and vibrant communities, many local arts and cultural organizations struggle to maintain a foothold in their neighborhoods due to space issues. Every month it seems we hear news of arts organizations being displaced, struggling to operate as effectively as possible in the face of urgent space issues, or completely closing.
Studies show that neighborhoods with many cultural resources are healthier, better educated, and safer overall than those in similar communities with fewer creative resources.
The commitment to providing permanently affordable space for arts organizations has been part of Artspace’s mission for over 30 years. To date, Artspace has provided below market rate commercial space for some 450 art organizations, cultural institutions, and non-profits in 22 states. And yet, we are acutely aware that the space we provide barely scratches the surface of what is needed.
Over the past several years many of Artspace’s philanthropic partners have also expressed concern over the serious space challenges that impact these organizations—particularly small and midsized organizations, and those in service to communities of color. There is a growing sense among foundations that the nonprofit arts scene remains fragile due in large part to the looming issues of access to safe, affordable space. Grantmakers, in conjunction with others, are taking active steps to address the problem and begin to identify solutions.
In 2015 the Kresge Foundation, with a mission to expand opportunities in America’s cities, challenged Artspace to think strategically about how we might deploy our experience and expertise in creating and maintaining affordable space to help others beyond the walls of our own buildings. How, Kresge asked, might they support Artspace so that we could help build organizational capacity for arts and cultural nonprofits struggling to create and maintain affordable space? The result of this collaboration between Kresge and Artspace was the Artspace Immersion program, an 18-month capacity-building program for creating and maintaining affordable, local space for creative pursuits, supporting cohorts of arts organizations to advance their own real estate solutions.
Now in its third year, this successful cohort-based program has attracted the attention of additional funders working to find solutions to space issues. The Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bloomberg Foundation have each contributed grant funding to support the Artspace Immersion program in various communities. Foundations are uniquely positioned to influence innovative strategies and increase their impact on key issues. Artspace’s work has benefited by the alignment of investments from multiple foundations around the shared vision to strengthen communities’ arts ecosystems by providing solutions to arts and cultural organizations space needs.
Excerpt from the Artspace QUARTERLY #5: The Mesa Issue