Spaceworks Tacoma has been filling vacant downtown commercial space with art for a few years now, and the benefits to artists have been obvious: more exposure, cheap venues, different audiences. The benefits to the community are harder to quantify, but include more street traffic and the uplift that comes from art anyway, and more and more properties have been drawn into this collaboration between the City of Tacoma, the Chamber of Commerce and arts non-profit Shunpike. In 2011 alone Spaceworks supported 18 creative enterprises, exhibited 28 art installations, occupied 20 retail spaces, supported over 70 events and attracted over 16,500 visitors. That’s a lot of downtown activity.
Now the project has spawned commercial success, at least in the Hilltop. Two Spaceworks project sites at 1310-1316 Martin Luther King Jr. Way – the Fab-5 hip hop youth arts group and the Nate Dybevik Piano Company – have taken on regular leases with the property owner after six months low-cost leasing through Spaceworks.
“With the stabilization of these two projects, it is clear that Spaceworks ‘works’ as an economic development tool,” said Tacoma arts administrator Amy McBride in a recent press release. “We’re not only providing opportunities for local artists and entrepreneurs, but strengthening business districts plagued by chronic vacancy.”
Local business owner Oliver Doriss, whose Fulcrum Gallery sits next door to the newly-leased property, supports McBride’s statement, saying safety and pedestrian traffic have both increased since the program began there last year.
For more information, see www.spaceworkstacoma.com