By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – If you call yourself an artist, you are welcome at Artspace.
“People think they have to have a fine arts degree to consider themselves an artist,” said Anna Growcott, Director, consulting and strategic partnerships for Artspace. “But we don’t feel that way. If you think you’re doing something creative, we agree.”
More than 50 citizens turned out for Artspace’s public forum this evening, concluding the first day of tours, focus groups and a performance by several local dance troupes. Earlier in the day, 31 artists shared their vision for the project, including community spaces, live/work studios and galleries.
“The first step in the process is to get all ideas on the table,” said Growcott. “We want a mixed-use project that can check multiple boxes.”
She also expanded on the traditional definition of artist. “We don’t just mean painters,” she said. “We want culinary artists, healing artists, performance artists, heritage artists. We’re making that definition as broad as possible.”
Wendy Holmes, Artspace senior VP/consulting & strategic partnerships, gave a virtual tour of several slides of other Artspace developments in New York, including the renovation of PS 119 in East Harlem into a 90-unit project. “They were going to demolish it,” she said. “People were forming a human chain around the building.”
But they were able to save it, sinking $53 million into renovations, including restoring old terra cotta gargoyles that had been stored in the basement. “We had 54,000 applications,” said Growcott.
“What is the application process like?” asked Eric Roberts. “Do you have to submit a portfolio?”
“It’s like any other affordable housing application, except at the bottom, you check a box that says you’re an artist,” said Growcott. “They get first priority, then the panel looks to see if you qualify based on income, and you’re invited in for an interview.”
Artists don’t have to make their living from their art, but Growcott said the panel – made up of local artists and Artspace staff – want to see if the artist is willing to be part of the community, including being on committees and helping plan public events.
Apartments are priced based on the median income of the area and the tenant’s own income. In Buffalo, for example, a 1-bedroom may go for $200, while a 3-bedroom may go for $800. “Rents are very reasonable,” said Growcott.
But don’t expect any wild, Andy Warhol-style parties. “The average age of our tenants is 41,” she said. “Plenty of our people have families, and the livability committee can set rules about quiet hours for the building.”
Funding is also fully in place before the building breaks ground, utilizing public tax credits and private philanthropy. The project in Buffalo, for example, was $16 million, split 80 percent public, 20 percent private.
On average, said Holmes, an Artspace project takes 4-5 years to complete, from the time of the first focus groups to the ribbon cutting on the building.
“We know how to do this work,” she said “If there’s a market here, let’s see what the possibilities are.”
Tomorrow they will meet with other shareholder focus groups, and compile all the data into a report, which Holmes said will be delivered to the city in early December.
“There’s considerable energy and enthusiasm for the project,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “There are a lot of possibilities.”