An organization wants to build affordable housing for artists in downtown Olympia and is exploring potential sites.
The Olympia Artspace Alliance has long advocated for a development where artists can live and work under one roof with like-minded people.
Last year, the alliance released the results of a 2013 survey that asked artists and creative organizations about their interest in such a space. The survey showed that the community could support up to 52 “live-work” units with a shared gallery and exhibition space in downtown Olympia.
Supporters praise the project as a potential catalyst for economic development downtown.
Members of the alliance and the national nonprofit Artspace gave the Olympia City Council an update at a study session Tuesday. The two groups also plan to meet this week with local community groups and The Evergreen State College. They want to explore the potential of a partnership with the college.
The alliance is studying about 40 sites in downtown Olympia for an Artspace building. Organizers hope to present a plan of action in August.
“We’re in the process of narrowing that list down,” said Kris Tucker, vice chairwoman of the alliance. “We’re open to a lot of ideas.”
Artspace projects such as the Tashiro Kaplan lofts in Seattle have helped artists earn up to 30 percent more income, said Wendy Holmes, senior vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships with the Minneapolis-based Artspace.
The projects often depend on a mix of public and private funding, Holmes told the council. She cited a number of Artspace projects in other U.S. cities that relied on varying amounts of public funding such as federal block grants and low-income tax credits. Cities sometimes cover pre-development expenses or donate land, for example.
“These kinds of projects can be combined with other civic priorities in your community,” Holmes said Tuesday. “We also want to look at the proximity of these sites to your existing cultural assets.”
The alliance’s 2013 survey also revealed that two-thirds of artists interested in moving to such a space in Olympia are white females, and half of the interested artists reported an income of less than $25,000 a year.