Artist Space Guide
A Guide for Creating and Preserving Affordable Artist Spaces
Introduction Close Open
These pages are designed to help you think through the process of creating and preserving affordable artist spaces. This information can also be used to develop other creative spaces like maker space, incubator space, rehearsal space, communal kitchens, etc. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it artist space.
The process of real estate acquisition and development can be challenging for anyone, even those with experience in it. The following resources will help both novices and experts navigate the stages of real estate development.
Mass Cultural Council also co-sponsors
SpaceFinder Mass, a database of available, affordable and alternative arts spaces in Massachusetts. Designed by Fractured Atlas and co-sponsored by the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston, this servics lists hundreds of creative spaces for rent across the state.
Making the Case for Artist Space Close Open
Making a strong case for having an artist space in a community is integral to any successful project. Before jumping in, it is useful to determine a few things:
Is there a history of artist spaces in your community? Do local artists, developers, funders, and public agencies have experience with artist space? Has this experience been positive or negative?
Are there advocates for artist space? Organizations like neighborhood groups, art associations, and city or town employees often advocate for the development of an artist space. Which of these organizations exist in your area and how might they support your project?
Is there an artist space intermediary? Is there an experienced agency or individual who can bring all parties together and communicate effectively between them?
What is the political climate? Is the city or town trying to attract artists as residents and/or business owners? Does the municipality grant financial or other incentives to artists?
Are there intersecting policy priorities or programs? Is there a stated policy or program that artist space can enhance? Examples might include an interest in the creative economy, creative clusters, artist districts, or historic preservation.
Sometimes learning who has tried to accomplish similar goals can yield valuable lessons and advice. At the Mass Cultural Council we are always willing to share our experience and insights. Please feel free to contact
Jay Paget, Cultural Facilities Fund Director, for more information.
Suggestions to Help You Make the Case
People who are developing artist space repeatedly find themselves advocating for their projects to funders, municipal officials, individual investors, other artists, and the community in general. Use the following points to educate and influence the people whose support might be key to the success your project. Consider them as the case-making (or advocacy) process evolves.
Project proposals must address the need for a particular space that is suitable for the corresponding creative practice, whether it’s sculpture, music, dance, robotics, cooking, etc.
Take a positive approach. You can make a powerful case for the cultural, social, and economic contributions artists make to a community. Avoid painting yourself (or the artists you are representing) as different and needy. Think of artists as beneficial to the vitality of communities and find ways to integrate their work with the community. Giving back through public events like open studios, potlucks, lectures, and courses can generate a lot of goodwill.
Knowing the history of a building or neighborhood might be beneficial as you make your case in the civic halls and town offices you will visit. Often artist spaces repurpose and improve vacant property, renovate abandoned buildings, and preserve the historic fabric of cities and towns. Situating your space in the history of a neighborhood demonstrates your dedication to the project and respect for the neighborhood, making your project more compelling.
All real estate development, including artist space, generates an economic ripple effect. Your project might need private investors, commercial lenders, architects, construction workers, building inspectors, electricians, and other contracted laborers. If the project succeeds, economic benefits will follow for the artists and groups who work in the building. Carefully think though the potential benefits and present them as clearly possible.
Once you have researched the feasibility of a potential space, put together a clear and comprehensive presentation that covers:
Evidence of a market demand for this kind of space,
Evidence that the space you have chosen can physically meet the proposed use
A breakdown or estimate of the costs and skills required to operate the proposed artist space
The funding and financing scenario for the project, and proof that the cost estimates are realistic.
Remember that development project artist space are often strong tools for garnering community interest, support, and participation.