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The Near Westside Initiative, comprised of neighborhood residents and local organizations, is restoring a vibrant urban neighborhood in Syracuse, New York dubbed: the SALT District (stemming from a long history of salt mining in the area). Within the SALT (Syracuse, Art, Literacy, Technology) District, a small neighborhood adjacent to downtown, they are testing the premise that art and culture can unite to create a revitalized community that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but true to the social and cultural values of its residents. Most recently, in partnership with ArtPlace, they have started a new effort called SALTQuarters which will consist of a renovated, formerly abandoned restaurant in the heart of the district into four affordable living quarters for artists, along with three artist studios and a wonderful gallery. As part of the project, two artists in residence will be provided one of the apartments, one of the studio spaces, and a stipend to support their work. These artists, one local, and one national, will spend one year developing professionally and using their craft as a strategy for placemaking in the neighborhood.

ArtPlace recently spoke with Maarten Jacobs, Director of the Near Westside Initiative, about their new project, SALTQuarters, and how it will be sustained after ArtPlace funding.

ARTPLACE: How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after your ArtPlace grant and will this work live beyond the grant period?

JACOBS: Sustainability has always been at the forefront of our minds when we dreamt up the idea for SALTQuarters. Knowing that it has gotten harder and harder to raise dollars and find funding for the arts, we want to create an innovative way by which the building maintenance and the artist in residency program would be sustainable for years to come.

With sustainability weighing heavy on the project, we created a model for the building and residency program by which revenue generated from the leasing of two of the studios and one apartment would offset the majority of the costs of the residency program. The Artplace grant allowed us to redevelop the entire building (4000 sq ft) without carrying any debt on the property. By having no mortgage or other debt, all that we then had to do was figure out a way to offset the cost of utilities, a stipend for the artists in the residency program, and all future maintenance costs. To do so we created 2 extra studios and one apartment that is being leased by the Near Westside Initiative. The combined amount of those leases allows us to cover 75% of the cost to run the artist in residence program. We believe that the remaining 25% of the cost will be easy to allocate through other grant sources since the it is such a minimal investment that other funder will need to make to have a great program continue year in and year out.

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