News and Features

Fill Out the Survey for Low-Cost Artists’ Housing – and Get This Project Started

Artspace Lofts planned for El Paso, Texas. Image outfront from Shutterstock

Artists and arts organizations in North Texas are being asked to help a national non-profit developer build affordable housing for artists here. All the artists have to do is fill out an online survey.

Artspace is a Minneapolis-based outfit that since 1979 has built 32 housing projects in 13 states and Washington, D.C. They first came to Texas to rehab Galveston’s  historic National Hotel into artists’ lofts in 2001. They came to Dallas last September to start the lengthy process here, working with the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and its Housing/Community Services Department. Typically, Artspace brings together city departments, local philanthropists, community efforts and low-income housing tax credits to create live-work spaces, offices and communal areas for writers, dancers, painters, musicians, architects, arts teachers and culture-related businesses. Larger organizations can become ‘anchors’ in these projects, which often renovate older buildings but can also involve creating whole-new developments.

Because these projects are partly bankrolled via federal grants, residents must meet federal requirements for affordable housing — meaning their income must be 60 percent or less of the area’s median income. According to Dallas city data, the estimated median household income in 2009 was $39,829. The estimated per capita income was $25,941.

Teri Deaver and Stacey Mickelson are vice presidents in Artspace’s consulting and ‘strategic partnerships’ department. They’re part of what Mickelson called ‘the first team’ that Artspace sends out to get these projects rolling. Eventually, the ‘final team’ is assets management — meaning Artspace doesn’t just build these projects, flip ‘em and walk away. They keep them running.

Deaver and Mickelson both spoke Wednesday at the Latino Cultural Center about how the online survey will provide vital demographic information.

“The funding for these projects are hard to put together,” said Deaver, “and it’s hard to find land, to be able to acquire land. So we need to be able to go to bankers and to funders and say, “Look, we’ve got, you know, a thousand artists or 500 artists that need space. These people are part of the affordable housing community that don’t have space that meets their needs.”   

In Mayor Mike Rawlings’ recent public panel on how Dallas can attract and keep artists, the issue of affordable apartments was never really addressed by anyone. But Artspace projects have transformed cities in just that way — not only making it possible for artists to live and work in a city but giving that city what Mickelson called a “node,” the start of a real artists’ community — complete with studios, offices, even coffeeshops, bookstores or other appealing retail outlets. In short, this is what should  have been planned for the Arts District from the beginning, instead of leaving housing and retail entirely to the marketplace and to the bulldozers.

So take the survey. You’ve got only until July 1, and Artspace is hoping for at least 400 respondents. North Texas can beat that number, easy. The completed surveys will help Artspace assess the artists’ needs in this area (within 50 miles of Dallas — so yes, that includes Fort Worth. Hell, it includes Denton). The surveys will help determine what location here might best serve the community (and Artspace toured quite a few back in September), whether additional projects should happen down the line, even how the project’s  live-work-office-and-barista functions might be balanced: the number of efficiencies vs. one- or two-bedroom apartments, for example, or how much commercial space would be welcome to offset the low-income rents.

And if you’re both an artist and the head of a creative organization or an arts-support business, the suggestion is you should fill out both surveys.

  • The individual artist’s survey is here.
  • The survey for arts organizations and arts-interested businesses is here.
  • Fill out both here.

Teri Deaver on what North Texas artists need to do now – develop ‘a singular voice':

Stacey Mickelson on why it’s legal to build affordable housing for just artists (or just farm laborers or first-responders or teachers):

Or watch Zad Roumaya discuss Artspace at Pecha Kucha Dallas 10: