Monday, April 4, 2011

Housing For Artists: Where Will The Money Go?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Gordon Square Arts District
  • Gordon Square Arts District

Come fall, one Cleveland neighborhood will offer artists more than inspiration and the camaraderie of fellow creatives. The Artists in Residence initiative announced Monday by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture will provide loans for artists buying or renovating property, home ownership services, and grants for artists undertaking community projects.

The winning artists’ enclave will be announced July 1, and the $500,000 committed to the two-year project will start flowing in October. Area community-development corporations competing to bring the project home should know that a bit of dilapidation could help.

“We want to be investing in a place that’s thinking about underutilized property and how artists can affect it,” says program director Seth Beattie. Neighborhoods rich with artist-occupied rental units and those with established stabilization efforts for downtrodden properties will have an advantage, he says. Based on those criteria, Scene's top picks for the money would include Asia Town, Buckeye, Detroit Shoreway, and Ohio City.

Outreach efforts will first entice renters to buy their homes. A local and national marketing campaign will then be launched, packaging Cleveland as a place artists should consider.

Beattie hopes the Artists in Residence money — half from a Kresge Foundation grant and half raised locally — will turn the chosen neighborhood around enough to make a strong case for additional investment after the first two years. “We want to showcase what happens when you make an investment in a neighborhood around artists,” he says.

North Collinwood is witness to what can happen. Last year alone, 13 artists bought homes there with help from a similar program started six years ago by the Northeast Shores Development Corporation. Half of those artists came from outside the state.

The shoreline community has been home to a solid number of artists for about 20 years and snagged the Beachland Ballroom more than a decade ago. The artists’ housing initiative leveraged that momentum, and once-blighted corners now boast boutiques, galleries, and children’s activities.

“This artists’ resurgence has increased demand for commercial space and housing, but more important, it’s created an energy around this neighborhood,” says Brian Friedman, Northeast Shores executive director. “We are a depressed region. People feel pretty beat up. It’s rewarding and refreshing to go where people are coming, houses are getting fixed, and stores are opening.”

Northeast Shores has a budget more than three times that available for the new Artists in Residence program, but Friedman says the Collinwood initiative is in jeopardy; 40 percent of funding comes from the Community Development Block Grant program currently under Congressional scrutiny.

Check back in July for updates on both programs.

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