Artspace advocates for housing, workspaces for artists in Carbondale

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A slide from the Artspace Carbondale artist housing survey that was presented to the town board on Tuesday night.
Artspace/courtesy image

For over 30 years, Artspace has served as a national real estate developer of affordable space for the arts. Tuesday night, representatives with the nonprofit organization presented at Carbondale’s town council meeting its findings from the Arts Market Study it conducted as in pertains to the feasibility of an affordable live-work art space in Carbondale.

“We work all over the country and our mission is to create, foster and preserve long-term, affordable space for creative people,” Artspace Senior Vice President of Consulting and Strategic Partnership Wendy Holmes said before the Carbondale Board of Trustees. “And, you have a lot of them in Carbondale.”

Based out of Minneapolis, Artspace relied on community input for its Arts Market Study and honed in on goals of quantifying the demands of artists in Carbondale.

The survey garnered 342 respondents, which according to Holmes was an excellent number given the size of Carbondale. Of those surveyed, 269 expressed interest in art space.

“That’s a big number of creative people needing space and wanting to be able stay in Carbondale in order to pursue their creative selves,” Holmes said.

Based upon the data, Artspace recommended the town, working in conjunction with Carbondale Arts and other groups, create up to 42 units of affordable live-work housing for artists and other “creatives” and their families, plus 11 units of new private studio space and other types of creative spaces.

“There was a lot of need for shared creative space. That’s a trend across the country, so that’s not surprising that would be the number one need in Carbondale,” Holmes explained.

Carbondale is a state-designated Creative District. The “creative industries” are not just defined as the traditional fine arts or performing artists, though, as the term extends to a broad spectrum of creative trades such as designers, builders, writers, film producers, chefs and more.

Holmes particularly grabbed the attention of trustees when she elaborated on how 68 percent of interested Carbondale residents had considered leaving. Of those, however, 100 percent would reconsider should an affordable housing market for artists come to fruition.

“We’ve never seen that kind of a strong reaction to wanting to be in a place but realizing that they can’t stay unless they have that affordable opportunity.”

Obviously, the exorbitant cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley does not exclusively burden artists, but rather professionals from all walks of life. Holmes pointed out how the market for artists in Carbondale was already thriving, but had the potential to reach greater heights.

“You have a lot of creative people here, so it is good to pay attention to that sector of your economy,” Holmes said.

According to Holmes, no site has been formally designated as a potential location for the project, should it even see the light of day. But she said that with other, similar developments Artspace has worked on throughout the country it’s common practice to gauge interest and develop a plan first, before selecting a site.

In many ways, the feasibility and arts market studies take the community’s temperature as it relates to how enthusiastic they seem about the project and its worthwhileness, she said..

In the case of Carbondale, Holmes saw endless potential.

Addressing the realm of financial reality for such a project, in order to keep the idea rolling, Holmes implored the town board to work with Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) as well as philanthropic organizations.

Private donors and foundations, in all likelihood would play a large role as the town already has numerous other projects it must fund.

“We’ve encountered these same issues in cities much more expensive than Carbondale, like New York City, so it’s not an impossible task, it just takes longer,” Holmes added.