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Second Phase Of Affordable Spaces For Artists Launches In North Little Rock

David Monteith

Little Rock and North Little Rock are one step closer to getting affordable housing and shared work spaces for artists. On Tuesday night, the national non-profit Artspace announced its plan to move forward to the second stage of development in central Arkansas. A feasibility study conducted in July convinced the organization of the region's interest and potential, so a survey of area artists and creative businesses has been launched.

Wendy Holmes, a senior vice president with the nonprofit, says she hopes to receive 500 to 800 survey responses before the survey closes on November 5. Feedback from the first phase of the project in July showed enought interest from artists to move to the next phase.

"They [artists] feel rather isolated. They don't have a lot of spaces where they can congregate. They represent a lot of diverse backgrounds and expertise and interests. I think that they feel like they need more of a spotlight on them, that they're a little hidden," Holmes said.

Artspace has used the federal low income housing tax credit program to help develop affordable locations for artists to live and create in more than 30 cities around the country over the last 30 years. According to Holmes, the organization is currently considering developing sites in both North Little Rock and Little Rock.

Aneesha Marwah with Artspace, said the results of the survey will help determine the size of the sites.

"We use what we call a three-to-one redundancy ratio," Marwah said. "So for every three artists who say that they would move into some kind of space, we usually build one unit. So if three people say, 'Yes, I want housing tomorrow,' we would feel comfortable building one unit of housing knowing that changes happen and things evolve and things happen down the road."

Jessi Perren, a local artist and art educator, was among the first to take the survey at a launch party on Tuesday night. She said the survey included questions gauging interest in potential locations as well as amenities like, "gallery exhibition space, a soundproof practice room, general-use studio space, loading docks, rehearsal spaces, community gardens, and utility sinks."

Perren also noted the minimum rent threshold on the survey was $400 per month. Artspace plans to return in January to publicly share the results of the survey and if demand is sufficient, will look for possible locations. The majority of its spaces are existing buildings, which are converted and retrofitted to meet the needs identified by that region’s artists, but some involve new construction. Artspace began its work in the area after an invitation from the Little Rock-based Windgate Foundation.

Artists and creative businesses within 50 miles of Little Rock and North Little Rock are being encouraged to take the survey, which can be found here.

David Monteith worked as a reporter for KUAR News between 2015 and July 2022.