SPACEWORKS_AUG2

New York City’s Spaceworks is a nonprofit organization that develops affordable long-term studio and rehearsal space for artists, helping to secure the prominent role that the arts play in New York.

Since its inception, Spaceworks has made an effort to assess demand for artist workspace in each borough and throughout the city as a whole. As part of these efforts Spaceworks recognizes that it is essential to hear directly from artists.

To that end, Spaceworks is convening a series of focus groups to assess the myriad ways artists in different disciplines utilize space and the unique challenges they face. Two of these discussion sessions took place at the Brooklyn Arts Council in July 2012 and included visual and performing artists.

The focus groups shed light on issues in the current marketplace and desired features that artists are looking for in a workspace. When it comes to facilitating the creative process, details and logistics matter. Here are a few highlights from the discussions:

• Affordability: Cost is a tremendous problem for New York City-based artists and the high price of real estate in the City is a common concern among artists of all disciplines.

• Access: Artists don’t always keep 9-5 hours when it comes to working on their creative projects, so night and weekend access to workspace is vital and 24 hour access is often preferred. Buildings with freight elevators are also important, especially to artists who work in large scale mediums or utilize sizable tools, instruments, and other supplies.

• Technical features: The physical demands on a creative workspace are as diverse as the artists who use them and certain types of artistic production require specialized features. Although some artists simply need four walls, others require heavy power for equipment such as kilns or lighting; others need sufficient sound buffering so that rehearsals, set-building, and other creative activities doesn’t disturb neighbors; and adequate ventilation for activities like painting and developing photos can be critical.

• Flexibility: Some artists crave natural light; others need more control over their light sources. Some artists want large spaces for their pirouettes and scenery; others need just enough for an easel. Spaces that can accommodate multidisciplinary performers are also difficult to find. A range of diverse and flexible spaces will best serve this wide-ranging constituency.

• Communal Space: Artists cited the value of shared common areas that allow for interaction and collaboration. Additionally kitchens, shared tool shops, and places to stage and photograph artwork were noted as potential assets. Participants also expressed the need for on-site storage.
The discussions also affirmed the more intangible values that Spaceworks will generate from developing permanent, affordable studio space. Artists with high quality, stable places to work are more likely to forge connections with their surrounding community, collaborate with neighbors and with one another, and improve an area’s overall economic development and quality of life.

Spaceworks is looking forward to learning more from upcoming artist focus groups targeting different areas and disciplines.

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