Models For Staving Of Artist Displacement By Gentrification

Interesting story in Bloomberg about what some arts organizations are doing to resist being displaced by gentrification.  The article focuses on Alma Weiser who formed Equity Arts as a Perpetual Purpose Trust (PPT) to buy and operate a building in Chicago. The PPT format allows Equity Arts to have for-profit projects which benefit the non-profit/charitable activities of the operation.

Once Weiser closes on the building, Future Firm founder and architect Ann Lui says they will begin work to bring the building up to code and rehab the basement, first and second floors. Half of the 12,000-square foot first floor, which has been a furniture store since the 1960s, will become an anchor market-rate retail tenant; rent from the tenant, Weiser said, will pay the building’s mortgage and allow grants and philanthropic donations to go further.

With an LLC and 501c3 working in tandem, Equity Arts opens up to other opportunities for funding beyond philanthropy and grants alone.

Among Weiser’s motivations for creating the trust wasn’t just to retain occupancy in a building in which she and others had been operating for many years, but also to avoid perpetuating the cycle where artists move to a new neighborhood and create a dynamic where gentrification begins to displace the long time working class residents.

The article also mentions San Francisco’s Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) which helps artists secure space using knowledge and a combination of resources most arts organizations aren’t aware exist. They describe it as a long and complicated process:

CAST negotiates property acquisition, and invests their dollars into the purchase. After their client reaches stabilization through fundraising and programming, CAST maintains a small ownership percentage over the building to address asset maintenance and management. “It is an incredibly complex and unpredictable journey of time. These things can take five to 10 years on the larger scale projects,” CAST executive director Ken Ikeda says.

The Ujima Project in Boston is described as a very democratic and participatory funding organization focused on empowering artists as investors:

A Black and artist-led organization advancing collective economics, Ujima operates the nation’s first democratically controlled investment fund, according to executive director Nia Evans. Anyone, with any income, can invest in their fund; residents help craft and vote for a list of businesses that receive investment. Artists are business owners and entrepreneurs, Evans says, and should be part of institutional and financial mechanisms that can protect them from rising real estate costs; some of the new businesses Ujima is ratifying right now include artists seeking space.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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