By: Cameron Abbott
Created in 1979, Artspace was envisioned to be an advocate for artist’s special needs, but soon became much more.
As the company evolved and took on the issues artists face today, they broke out of the twin cities of Minnesota, and have found success from coast to coast, New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between.
And now they are making their way to Mesa.
In the fall of 2013, a survey was released by a partnership of arts and culture organizations. The purpose was to discover if artists who frequent and inhabit the burgeoning art scene in Downtown Mesa found living spaces in the areas surrounding it feasible. The survey was also given out to businesses in order to gauge a reaction to the concept of this kind of living center. The answer could be considered overwhelmingly positive.
When looking at the overview of the market survey, in which Artspace recommends the creation of up to 91 spaces, with 50 of them, alone, being living spaces. The market survey had half the businesses interested in relocating, expanding, or launching in the new multi-use arts facility in Downtown Mesa.
The partnership included the Mesa Arts & Culture, NEDCO, and Artspace themselves. Included in the survey, a letter by Artspace describes the need in Mesa for this kind of facility.
“A strong need for affordable space in Downtown Mesa designed to serve the creative community is uncovered and described in this study,” the letter stated. “Based on this, Artspace recommends next steps that include concept refinement, site identification and selection and financial modeling for a multi-use arts facility project in Downtown Mesa.”
A site has been selected, an empty lot on Hibbert, right off of 2nd Avenue, well within walking distance at the future site of the Mesa Drive Light Rail station.
Mesa Vice Mayor Christopher Glover, said, “ArtSpace has been a great success in the other cities across the country and I have no doubt that we would have similar results here in Mesa.”
“It would really be a natural fit, thanks to the Mesa Arts Center and the Art Museum that shares that space,” Glover said. “When you factor in the colleges that we have brought to Downtown Mesa and all of their students, it seems like a win/win for both the city and the artists.”
“With light rail coming through Downtown Mesa, ArtSpace would be a huge beneficiary,” he said. “The light rail could act as a connector, that shuttles the resident artists throughout the Valley so they can experience all that the area has to offer in terms of art.”
The location appears to be perfect, within walking distance of the proposed site is not only the main hub of public transportation, the Phoenix Metro Valley Light Rail, but also the Mesa Arts Center, Arizona’s largest arts center, which houses four theaters, 14 art studios, and five art galleries.
It also houses a smaller number of smaller museums, including the i.d.e.a.s. youth museum, and the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
Artspace is looking forward to seeking housing grants, which under a Reagan Era provision, allows them to make the spaces available and prevent rental mark up, allowing them to build a modern facility using readily available funding via the Arizona Department of Housing, creating an optimal living space for the artistic needs of the Arizona population.
With local businesses willing to pick up and move to seek their fortunes in the facility, the connections and synergizing opportunities with existing local art locales, and the expansion of the largest public transportation innovation since its introduction, the Light Rail as a bonding agent for the new Downtown Mesa being put together, the Artspace artist colony looks to be a perfect fit.