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Feedback needed on how to house creativity

By Genevieve Villamizar
Special to The Sopris Sun


Calling all artists — writers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen and creators: The Carbondale Creative District and Town of Carbondale invite you to participate in the Artspace Housing Feasibility Study, 7 to 9 p.m.  Dec. 5 at the Third Street Center, refreshments provided.

The feasibility study is an opportunity for Bonedalians to brainstorm our way out of the Catch-22 gentrification cycle to which most of us have contributed. That this study is even happening is a minor miracle, actually, as Carbondale had initially lost the bid for the Space to Create designation last September.

So, how, why, now?

Town Manager Jay Harrington explains that several years ago, the state created Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade. Partnering with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), they formed Space to Create to address housing and economic development in rural areas. Our district, the Northwest DOLA District, recently had its turn. Carbondale Arts and the Town sent a letter of intent and pre-application to be a Space To Create community.

“The benefit of Space to Create,” says Harrington, “is that it came with an arts space feasibility study up front, and then the more detailed needs analysis, which is the second phase. We didn’t get the designation for logical reasons. It went to Paonia, which is dealing with significant housing issues and employment issues, with the mines closing. They’re dealing with an entire transformation over there, where we’re dealing with specific arts stuff.”

Harrington touches on the experience of Carbondale Arts hosting the 2016 Creative Industries Annual Summit last summer. “All the officials were there — Space to Create, Artspace; all of the Creative Districts were in town. They said “We think you’re still a great candidate, but we just can’t do it through this program.” Instead, we submitted a grant application to DOLA and they gave us $25,000; the Town matched $25,000; and Carbondale Arts put in $5,000 to move ahead with the Artspace program. That’s why we’re doing this analysis. It grew out of the Space to Create model, but it’s a stand-alone thing, where we’ve contracted directly with Artspace, the chosen vendor for Space to Create in all of these communities.”


Who or what is Artspace?

“Artspace,” explains Angie Sprang, Carbondale management analyst “is the nation’s leading nonprofit developer of affordable space for creatives and creative organizations.”

Artspace has proven through hundreds of collaborations, to be the tip of the spear in community development for communities already hard at work trying to find their own solutions. Headquartered in forward-thinking Minneapolis, with offices in LA, NYC, D.C., Seattle, New Orleans and Denver, Artspace has a track record of using “the tools of real estate development to create affordable, appropriate places where artists can live and work,” says Artspace.org. “We consistently develop these projects in ways that also support more stable, healthy communities anchored in existing assets.”

Harrington says “we’re not a resort community, we’re kind of a hybrid, a support community. We’re never going to have the financial resources for two to three thousand affordable housing units like Aspen has.” But Carbondale has a scrappy resourceful core of  community contributors that have found a multitude of ways to make it work for them.

Local housing advocate Bob Schultz adds that “high land and construction costs, along with town requirements, make traditional free market approaches nearly impossible.” Schultz maintains hope, though. “Carbondalians have a history of getting things done outside of the traditional model.”

SAW, Third Street Center, the Launchpad, Carbondale Clay Center, Art Around Town — all of these entities and more are proof of that. Colorado Creative Industries recognizes that where it matters: funding.

Tapping the social capital of creative communities, Artspace has successfully developed 47 projects, actualizing over 2,000 affordable live-work units for artists and their families, and developed over a million square feet of nonresidential art space for arts organizations. And they are positioned to help Bonedale do so, too.

“Because Artspace owns each of the projects it develops, we are able to ensure that they remain affordable and accessible to artists in perpetuity,” says Artspace.org. “Over the last three decades, Artspace has led an accelerating national movement of artist-led community transformation. While embracing the value the arts bring to individual lives, Artspace has championed the once-radical idea that artists living on the edge of poverty and chronically underfunded arts organizations can leverage fundamental social change.”

Artspace wants to hear from you — Carbondalians intimate with the fabric of our community. Be you creatively or entrepreneurially driven, you are the connected, creative class. With your perspectives, says Sprang, “we hope to gather ideas about what the creative sector is missing, collect feedback about potential sites, and look at fresh ideas to serve Carbondale’s needs. Potential ideas can include live/work housing, co-working spaces, shared spaces, gallery space, and anything else you can think of.”

Tuesday evening’s brainstorm is an official beginning, but does not necessarily mean a for sure thing. Artspace does not finance in entirety. They are the experienced catalyst to spur creative solutions and formalize collaboration. It will be up to local interests to seek additional partners and funding, be it through tax credits, grants, philanthropy.

“It might work, it might not,” Harrington notes with caution, but he remains hopeful. “We’ve already had the big meeting where everyone comes in and says “We have a housing crisis.” or “I have twelve roommates.” This is more of a session where we ask “What kind of creative ideas do we have to get through this?”

Next Steps

What: Artspace Housing Feasibility Study. Main Focus: The Creative Sector

When: Dec. 5 from 7-9 p.m.

Where: Third Street Center, Carbondale

More info: Refreshements will be provided. Win 2 tickets to Green Is the New Black Fashion Extravaganza for wearing the “most festive holiday sweater,” Judging takes place at 8 p.m.