Art community meets goal for study on studios, housing

Staff writerJanuary 30, 2013 

A group of community leaders has met its goal of raising $42,500, enough to conduct a market study on whether to build artist studios and housing in downtown Olympia.

The Olympia Artspace Alliance has spent the past couple of years fundraising for the study, said Ron Hinton, president. The study will survey artists and artist organizations to find out what their needs are. Hinton said artists need a center that offers classes and other opportunities.

“The survey is just going to give us a lot of answers in the community about where we go from here,” said Hinton, a metal artist for more than 40 years, according to the alliance’s website.

Once completed, the group could use the survey to woo Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, which largely finances artist live/work developments if public money is used to prove market feasibility. That could cost up to $750,000, including determining project size and location, design and securing financing and tax credits, The Olympian reported in 2009.

Artspace requires the market study before going forward with a project. The nonprofit manages 42 properties nationwide, according to its website. Four of those projects are in Washington state: three in Seattle and one in Everett. The Everett project, for example, contains “40 units of affordable live/work studios for individuals and families,” according to Artspace, as well the Schack Art Center, where art is learned and created.

The idea of bringing Artspace to town dates to at least 2009, when it was among the Olympia City Council’s top priorities. That year, the council brought Artspace representatives to town, where they toured art facilities, met with artists and elected leaders and participated in a community meeting that drew 200 people, said Stephanie Johnson, the city’s arts and events manager.

But the council’s makeup changed dramatically in 2010, and the project was shelved. After prodding from the community, the city dedicated $10,000 to the project if the community raised the first $32,500.

The alliance formed, and more than 300 people attended fundraisers, Hinton said. The group has raised about $36,000, excluding the city’s contribution.

The Olympia City Council voted on first reading to approve spending $10,000 last week and is expected to give final approval at its meeting next week.

Hinton told the council this month that the group has met its goal. In an interview, he said the market study will be useful in its own right, and may not lead to an Artspace project. It could be for an art center, for which the city conducted a feasibility study in 2007, or some combination of the two. He also is open to working with a private developer other than Artspace.

The plan is to get the survey results, and then decide.

“It’s going to be a real valuable tool for the city as they go ahead in whatever happens,” Hinton said. “Once the survey is done, we’ll get the answers.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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