City nears goal for Artspace survey

Published 11:16 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Albert Lea Community Development staff have collected names of almost 1,600 people to send the upcoming Artspace Projects Inc. artist market survey.

City staff have to send the survey names to Artspace by Dec. 18, and then Artspace will send postcards to identified people with information about the survey. Names are requested to be turned into the community development staff by Dec. 12.

Community Development Assistant Wendy Flugum said the ultimate goal is to have between 2,000 and 2,200 people to send the survey to. Then for a local live/work development project to move forward, Artspace will need at least 45 to 55 artists to respond to the online survey as being income qualified and interested in living in that type of development.

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If the project comes to fruition it would be in the city-owned Freeborn National Bank Building.

On Jan. 6, Artspace Resource Development Director Roy Close and Government Relations Director Stacy Mickelson will return to Albert Lea to launch the survey, which will determine if there is a market for the artists in the region and how many units would be needed to accommodate them.

“I want local people to know that if they have any interest in finding out more about Artspace or want to be on the mailing list to please e-mail your name and address,” Flugum said.

Artspace — a nationally known, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating affordable, loft-like studios where artists can live as well as work — began in 1979 in response to the decline of Minneapolis’ historic Warehouse District in the ’70s.

Since, it has become the national leader in the field of developing affordable space for artists through adaptive reuse of old warehouses, schools and commercial buildings. Together with the cities it chooses to work with, it purchases and renovates buildings and then leases them back to artists at below-market rates.

In cities where the projects have occurred, there has been much revitalization in the other nearby buildings.

Artists of all disciplines are invited to participate in the survey — including painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, writers, photographers and even culinary artists. Art does not have to be a person’s full-time income to participate.

If the survey comes back a success, the project will include 15 to 18 loft-like apartments with subsidized rents.

Flugum said she has received the names of about 330 students from Riverland Community College, Luther College in Decora, Iowa, and St. Olaf College in Northfield who are interested.

Contacts have also been made at Rochester Community College, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Winona State University, along with various other arts organizations. She is still awaiting response back from several.

City staff also plan to visit Albert Lea High School art classes next week to share information about the project, she said.

“I’m confident we’ll reach 2,000 in the next two weeks,” Flugum said. “And I’ll make some more calls if I have to, too.”

In trying to get the word out, a Facebook page has even been made about the project that advertises the upcoming meeting in January and the project as a whole.

Under a facebook account, people can search for “Artspace Albert Lea” under events or groups.

Bookmarks featuring a photograph of the Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson Apartment buildings has also been created advertising the project.

To find out more about the project, contact Flugum at