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Residents look at creating space for arts in Elizabeth

Survey will gauge interest in site that would nurture creativity


Artists and art-minded citizens from Elizabeth, Parker, Castle Rock and the surrounding areas gathered at the Parker Arts Culture & Events (PACE) Center on Feb. 22 to launch an Arts Market Survey.

The objective of the survey is to gauge the level of interest in constructing an art space in Elizabeth. Such a space would potentially provide affordable housing for artists as well as provide a creative hub and community gathering center.

Mayor Pro Tem Rachel White said they hoped to receive 5,000 responses to the survey.

The idea of an art space was brought up when several members of the Elizabeth town staff were considering ideas for what to do with the “old Giesen's lot” at the end of Main Street, said artist Jennifer Skalecke of Elizabeth.

Last April the Elizabeth Board of Trustees conducted a study to determine the feasibility of an art space for Elizabeth. The board then invited the Minneapolis-based consulting group Art Space to help them take the idea to the next step with the kickoff at the PACE.

Art Space was founded in Minneapolis in 1979 as a nonprofit to give artists a way to have affordable housing and work in their chosen field. The organization is part of a new field defined as “creative place-making”.

Wendy Holmes, Art Space senior vice president of consulting and strategic partnerships, gave a presentation highlighting what an art space is and how towns have come to define their own art spaces.

Holmes used PowerPoint slides to show examples from the 45 successful art spaces throughout the country. She noted the “symbiotic relationship between the ground floor and what's happening upstairs” as a part of what makes art spaces thrive.

Examples of art spaces include live/work spaces, commercial/retail/office spaces, and collaborative workspaces — which are membership-based and “allow the artists to use equipment that would be prohibitive for artists to own individually,” Holmes said

A significant piece to the Elizabeth project would be the community space. Holmes pointed to flexible use spaces for community gatherings, outdoor events and performing.

“Everything is on the table right now,” she said.

“The reason we're looking for so many responses is because the outcome will be based on a three-to-one ratio,” White explained. “If 90 people respond, for example, we will be able to act on 30,” she said. “That's why it's so important to get as many responses as possible.”

Not every marketability study turns into an art space, Holmes said, but Elizabeth is at a point in its growth where it is feasible.

Sourcing the funds for art space projects is typically multi-layered. As Holmes told the group, which is what ensures it will be affordable housing.

“It could include potential tax credits, philanthropic sources, and first mortgages,” Holmes said.

Elizabeth Mayor Clay Hurst stated the town's reasoning for pursuing an art space: “The focus of the board — our goal — is to make Elizabeth a wonderful place to live, to provide cultural enrichment,” Hurst said. “The town is not trying to make a profit from the space.”

Hurst added: “We have properties that may or may not be appropriate, we're not asking for money, we're asking for ideas, we need vitals. It may work, it may not work.”

The survey will close on April 5, and results will be reviewed with the public in June. It can be found at www.elizabethartsurvey.org


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