May 1, 2018

White Paper: Safety & Artist Spaces Best Practices

Denver Police oversee artists ousted from Rhinoceropolis.

Over the decades, Artspace has surveyed and facilitated discussions with tens of thousands of artists across the country. At the top of nearly every artist’s wish list, in places as diverse as Los Angeles, CA and Council Bluffs, IA, is the need for quality, affordable space. Sadly, these two ideals often work in conflict.

Quality spaces, which prioritize safety and continual reinvestment, are rarely affordable to low-income users. Conversely, affordable spaces often lack the resources to be fully code-compliant, especially over time. This tension can be especially complex in artist spaces, in which tenants are often using the space in nontraditional ways and owners may be delaying reinvestment until a shift in market conditions creates opportunities to increase rents. Though many artist spaces strike a balance between quality and affordability, the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland in December 2016 was a terrifying reminder of what can happen when safety is compromised.