Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Unused Space, Indoors

I received an email yesterday from someone who said that a performance artist friend was having a hard time finding affordable rehearsal space. Her idea was to try and integrate these rehearsals into entertainment for an outdoor venue, a la the street food court + garden/art space that was previously mentioned on this site.

While I think this is a terrific idea, I couldn't help but think that these artists might prefer space indoors, and might need electricity, a flat surface to work on, and so forth. Where might one find such a space? How about in the street-level empty retail spaces that grace many of the new condo and apartment developments around the hill?

For example, John Court, at 15th and John, has a huge empty retail space -- one that could either be a restaurant or be subdivided into three smaller shops; they are probably hoping to get a tanning salon, a real estate agent, and a check-cashing spot -- that could easily accommodate a small theater troupe, dance crew, guerilla projection team, etc.

The major obstacle to such an arrangement, and a recurring theme around here, would probably be liability insurance. Other than that, I can not imagine why a property owner would not be open to leasing space out temporarily, especially to the arts. In such a situation, everyone wins: the artists have a place to rehearse, the owner gets good PR and can bring in a few bucks without substantial risk, and the street becomes that much more lively during rehearsals.

As an exploratory effort, I'm going to put together a google map showing buildings with this sort of dead street level space (wanna help? email me). I have asked the emailer to round up a list of artists in need of such space, and hopefully we can find a way to help them make connections with the owners. Also, if you have any connections at companies like CBRE, I could use all the inside help I can get.


  1. http://novacancyproject.wordpress.com/no-vacancy-guide/

    You should read this final report- and guide. A student project in Portland - I thought it very useful. They discuss the obstacles to temporary uses - and benefits which is something that really needs to be promoted to property owners.

    So I'd venture a suggestion - if you are serious about this I think it would make sense to gather a stakeholder group, set up a survey of property owners and provide some standardized information. Probably need to enlist someone at an umbrella org like artist trust) to try to figure out how to really overcome that tricky obstacle of liability insurance.

  2. hey kate, i just found your comment; thanks for the link!

    speaking of an umbrella group, i actually have an application in to shunpike and will find out if i'm accepted as a "partner artist" in a few weeks.

    thanks again for the comment!