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Artist Space Development: Financing

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Document date: January 01, 2007
Released online: April 18, 2008

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

The text below is an introduction to the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format.


In 2003, an Urban Institute report concluded that lack of affordable space posed critical constraints in artists’ ability to pursue their work effectively.  Scarcity of affordable space not only made it difficult for artists to work but also disrupted entire communities of artists who relied on each other for ideas and support.  In response to this finding, this report looks at both a range of ways in which more affordable artist spaces can be created and the impact of artists’ spaces on neighborhoods and cities.


This report is the result of research conducted in 2004 and 2005 for Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a national initiative dedicated to increasing support for individual artists. An Urban Institute study published in 2003 had identified the need for artists’ spaces as one of critical challenges facing individual artists. In many cities and neighborhoods, affordable spaces once occupied by artists had given way to a rising tide of gentrification and escalating rents.In other places, the low-incomes earned by artists put good-quality spaces in which to live and work out of reach. Yet in some communities, efforts by the private and public sector had helped artists find and renovate spaces, sometimes on their own and sometimes aided by the work of nonprofit and other developers.


To find out more about how these projects were carried out and the kinds of support various actors need to implement them effectively, LINC commissioned the Urban Institute to survey artists’ spaces around the country and to visit seven communities in which spaces had been developed. During these visits, researchers interviewed those most involved with project design, development, and financing, as well as individual artists and well-placed people throughout the community who could provide informed opinions on how artists spaces had been, and were being, created. The team talked with people affiliated with 29 artists’ space projects, including studios and livework spaces developed in a variety of buildings and neighborhoods.

This Report

In the report to follow, we discuss various aspects of artists’ space development:

In the first section, we outline the different types of artists’ spaces we reviewed, including live-work and studio spaces, primarily, but also variations on these two basic types. We also examine the different types of developers of artist space development projects, showing points of overlap and correspondence in their motivations and the types of projects they develop.

In the second section, we examine project process: how artist space projects are developed, the effect of local regulation, features of design that project developers and occupants find important, and the different types of ownership and occupancy arrangements that projects have adopted.

In the third section, we discuss artist space project financing, including projects costs and how these are influenced by various factors during acquisition and construction, project financing and the need for subsidies from public and philanthropic sources, and how different investors’ interests influence their willingness to supply the funding needed to get projects built.

In the fourth section, we examine how the strength of local real estate markets and local systems for the mobilization of capital, expertise, and political clout for development of low-income communities affects the overall costs and risks of investing in artists’ spaces. In the fifth and final section, we outline some recommendations for artists’ space development supporters as they consider actions to promote due consideration of artists space needs in the communities where they operate.

(End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.)

Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods

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