Bill Hillman, Mansion GlassA survey of Olympia-area artists and creative organizations and businesses has revealed a strong need for affordable spaces to live and work, and a preference for siting such a project in downtown Olympia.

The findings provide important information for a local effort to build a multi-use center to provide affordable housing and studio space for artists and their families, with compatible businesses and organizations on the street level.

The survey was commissioned by Olympia Artspace Alliance, a local nonprofit organization established in 2011. The survey sought to assess the demand for creative spaces in the Olympia area, and to articulate design elements, building features, and amenities preferred by artists and creative organizations and businesses.

602 artists and 97 organizations and businesses completed the survey, conducted October through December 2013.

Olympia artist and OAA Board member Tom Anderson sees this project as a catalyst for economic development as well as for supporting the creative community. “Artspace projects in other cities have demonstrated that the arts are healthy and positive solutions to their challenges,” he observes. “The future of Olympia will be determined by bold, imaginative solutions.”

The envisioned project will bring new residents and businesses to downtown Olympia, and provide a center for arts and creativity that has broad benefits for the region. Similar projects elsewhere stimulate nearby business activity and contribute to the safety and vitality of broader neighborhood.

The survey recommends up to 52 affordable live/work units in downtown Olympia, plus up to 37 studio spaces for creative work. An analysis of the survey responses indicates need for a variety of configurations, including efficiency/studio units, as well as units with one, two or three bedrooms. Other important features were also identified, including natural light, Internet access, high ceilings, additional storage and soundproofing.

Other key findings:

  • Olympia area artists and creative organizations have a strong need for spaces to live and work, including gallery/exhibition space and classroom spaces.
  • 54 organizations and businesses are interested in locating in a multi-use creative facility in Olympia.
  • Interested artists are active in a variety of art forms, including sculpture, fiber/textile arts, fine crafts, graphic arts/design, painting/drawing, writing, and theater.
  • Downtown Olympia ranked as the area of highest interest, with strong interest in public transportation. Most need one parking space.

The survey was conducted by Artspace Projects, Inc. and Swan Research and Consulting, and was supported by The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, Thurston County Chamber, Economic Development Council of Thurston County, Olympia Downtown Association, Freas Foundation, and ArtsWA/the Washington State Arts Commission.

Artspace Projects, Inc., is a national leader in the field of developing affordable space that meets the needs of artists through the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and new construction.

The report provides data “to assist project partners in the exploration and creation of affordable new space where artists working in all creative and artistic disciplines may live, work, and pursue their art, as well as spaces where arts, cultural and creative organizations and businesses can thrive.”

With the survey findings in hand, the Olympia Artspace Alliance is now identifying potential funding sources, and strengthening partnerships in the public and private sector. No site has been identified for the prospective project.

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