Artspace lifts up artists to build capacity and community

Until their work becomes commercially viable, an artist often doesn’t see a return on their investment, countless hours, supplies and workspace.

In an effort to address Memphis’ struggling creative artists, nonprofit real estate developer Artspace has announced a new program addressing space-related issues – that could be anything from helping a local arts organization expand into a new space or assisting them to program a vacant space. Artspace Immersion will support a group of up to 10 Memphis-based arts and cultural organizations that are undergoing facility-related planning.

In consultation, they will work with participants to chart a path to each one’s vision for their arts facility. That may take the form of providing feasibility studies on the creation of an affordable live/work project. Other times, it is providing technical assistance to organizations that are undertaking a real estate initiative to fulfill a space need.

Related: "Artists can be the 'connective tissue' of a neighborhood -- but first they need a place to live"


Artspace is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that develops, operates and consults on the creation of permanently affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations across the U.S. The nonprofit developer has been engaged in Memphis for about ten years, primarily focused on the development of the South Main Artspace Lofts, a mixed-use project with 65 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families.

In addition, the lofts will feature a community/gallery space, a shared art studio and office space for ArtUp, a nonprofit that invests in creative entrepreneurs and creative placemaking in order to empower disinvested communities.

Artspace will own the building, to be located at 38 St. Paul Avenue, in perpetuity, so they will continue to stay engaged in Memphis through that project and the community of residents/tenants.

Artspace Immersion is an 18-month cohort program designed to build local capacity for creating and maintaining affordable space for arts, cultural, and creative pursuits.

“The program immerses participants in Artspace’s mission-driven, artist-led process and connects them with other local experts in the field. Artspace draws upon its three decades of experience developing, operating and consulting on affordable arts facility projects across the country as it assists cohort participants,” said Anna Growcott, Artspace director of consulting and strategic partnerships.

Monthly meetings of the Artspace Immersion cohort will bring together a group of arts and culture organizations at various stages of facility and real estate planning. Through technical assistance, skill-building and networking will be developed to help advance their space-related goals. Peer-to-peer learning is also encouraged.

Project concept, budgeting for space, fundraising, applying for loans and internal leadership are the topics that will be covered in the cohort. They are designed to build organizational capacity.

“We also bring in local experts in such topics such as architecture, city resources, fundraising, etc, to present and continue to build a network of resources,” said Growcott.

Participants will receive free resources, input from industry experts to address the challenges they face beginning in Fall of 2019. It is funded by the Kresge Foundation.

Artspace invited Memphis Arts leaders to discussion and information sessions on June 20 - 21 to answer questions and demonstrate how to apply to this new arts cohort program.

“The information sessions had an excellent turnout. We met with representatives from a variety of organizations that are considering a new space-related initiative,” said Growcott.

The application process for the program begins on June 28, and they are hoping to hear from organizations that have: nonprofit status (or fiscally sponsored or B-Corps); dedication to an arts, creative, or cultural mission; located in Shelby County; and identified space-related need (planning underway).

While the Artspace Immersion is new to Memphis, it is based on the outcomes of a pilot program held in Detroit in 2015. As a result, Artspace was funded to bring the program to Memphis and Minneapolis. The Twin Cities’ program launched in February.

“In the Minneapolis and Detroit cohorts, we worked with organizations that have outgrown their space and are looking to expand. Some that need to find new space because their building is being sold by the landlord, rent has increased, or the space doesn't fit their needs for other reasons. Other organizations are navigating a new opportunity to fill a vacant building with arts programming, or are considering buying a building,” said Growcott.

And while each city’s space-related challenges will differ across the cohort, one overall theme remains the same for Artspace.

“For every organization, having affordable, accessible, safe, and appropriate space is very necessary for them to accomplish their mission-related work,” said Growcott.


Read more articles by Kim and Jim Coleman.

Kim Coleman is a journalist with over 20 years of experience in newsrooms as a reporter, editor and graphic designer, including ten years with The Commercial Appeal as Design Director/Senior Editor and Print Planning Editor. 


Jim Coleman is a freelance writer, covering a variety of topics from high school sports, community news and small business. He has written for different news organizations over the past 20 years, including The Commercial Appeal, Community Weeklies, Lexington Herald-Leader and The Albuquerque Journal.