Home at Last: Creative Communities Become Their Own Developers

Emily Badger explains how a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization is working to break the cycle of gentrification within artist communities by helping to create and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations.
August 17, 2012, 7am PDT | Emily Williams
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Artists have long suffered from the "Soho effect", a title Badger says applies to artist communities who revitalize undesirable parts of cities and are then displaced once the area begins to grow and prices rise. As cities increasingly embrace revitalization through "creative placemaking", which aims to build communities around arts and cultural activities, the threat of the Soho effect becomes more widespread.

"It was insulting for people to sometimes say, ‘Oh, artists like to move, they're bohemians!' Who likes to be on the street and renegotiate a lease and carry all their equipment and try to create a new community and basically start all over?" states Kelley Lindquist, president of the non-profit group Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer working to supply art communities with live/work spaces. Since its inception in 1979, the organization has "completed 30 live/work developments in 21 U.S. cities, with two more opening this fall, two more under construction, and another dozen in the pipeline."

There's ongoing debate about the strength of the connection between the arts and economic development. But, while "Artspace doesn't prove that artists can power the economy of whole cities," says Badger, it sends a clear message that art-based communities can thrive without becoming victims of their own success.

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Published on Friday, August 10, 2012 in Fast Company
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