How Artist Space Matters

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

Anne Gadwa, Metris Arts Consulting, with contributions from Ann Markusen and Nathaniel Walton

2010, 123 pages. Artspace Projects, 250 Third Avenue North Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55401, (612) 333-9012,


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This report offers a detailed answer to a relatively straightforward question: Do artist spaces matter, and if so how? More specifically, do they make it possible for artists to increase the amount of time they devote to art making, share equipment, engage in collaborations, and/or increase income? Do they help arts organizations financially stabilize or grow? Do they bolster neighborhood businesses? Are they linked to physical upgrades in the surrounding area? Do they help increase or stabilize property values without displacement? Are they associated with increased civic involvement, safety, or new community gathering places? Artist space proponents, including artists, developers, funders, and municipalities, presume that artist spaces generate these kinds of returns, with goals varying from stakeholder to stakeholder. To determine the degree to which these expectations are realized, Metris Arts Consulting took an in-depth look at how three case study artist spaces benefit both in-house artists and arts organizations and the surrounding neighborhood and region.

Artspace Projects developed three case studies: the Northern Warehouse Artists’ Cooperative, the Tilsner Artists’ Cooperative, and the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art. These case study spaces, all located in the Twin Cities of Minnesotta, represent three of Artspace’s earliest developments. Artspace commissioned this study with funding from LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity). Artspace’s objectives for the research are twofold. First, it plans to use the findings to shape its ongoing work in these three spaces, other projects in operation, and future projects to better meet its core mission and foster broad community benefits. Second, Artspace seeks to provide artist space proponents and critics, including artists, funders, government officials, and neighboring residents and business owners, with objective data on the impacts of artist spaces.

The data provide evidence that the three case study artist spaces do matter, both for in-house arts tenants and for surrounding neighborhoods and regions. Artists have accessed career boosts through shared synergies with others in their buildings, enhanced reputations, and time and productivity gains. The general public and members of the larger arts communities have increased access to arts offerings. Interviewees not only saw the direct rehabilitation of historic warehouses as a benefit, they also credited the artist spaces with catalyzing other development and providing their neighborhoods with ongoing cachet. Although the data suggests the artist spaces helped increase property values in the surrounding neighborhood, we found few red flags that these spaces spurred gentrification-led displacement. The buildings strengthened, attracted, and helped retain artist entrepreneurs. Spending by artist residents and visitors provide boosts to neighborhood businesses. Interviewees also credited the artist spaces with modest social benefits including spurring artists’ civic involvement, providing the public with new places to gather and helping increase safety.