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Photo: Big Car Collaborative
The search for a housing model that benefits both artists and communities.

Low-income communities often benefit artists by providing cheap housing. And artists benefit low-income communities — at least until a tipping point comes and improved ambience spills over into gentrification. That’s when neighbors find that rents have gone too high, and the artists do, too.

Indianapolis is testing an approach to make artist and community interaction a long-term benefit for all.

Adele Peters writes at Fast Company, “For artists, the gentrification cycle in cities often goes something like this: struggling photographers or painters or writers move into an industrial neighborhood with cheaper rents and transform it. As new businesses spring up to serve these new residents, the neighborhood becomes more desirable to a wider swath of upper-middle class professionals. Eventually, rents increase so much that the artists have to move away.

“In Indianapolis, one block in the Garfield Park neighborhood south of the city’s downtown is experimenting with a different model. An arts nonprofit worked with other partners to buy and renovate vacant houses and is now offering to co-own them with artists.

“Artists will pay half the cost – one $80,000 home, for example, will sell for around $40,000. If they later move out, they’ll get their equity back, but no more; the house will be sold at the same cost to someone else, keeping the neighborhood accessible as the artists help make it more desirable.

” ‘Neither of the two sides can profit off of an inflated market value,’ says Jim Walker, executive director of Big Car Collaborative, the art and placemaking nonprofit leading the project along with the local Riley Area Development Corporation and local neighborhood associations. ‘That’s to keep us from pricing out future owners of the homes.’ …

“When Big Car bought an abandoned factory on a block in Garfield Park, converting it into a community art center that opened in 2016, the organization realized that there was a bigger opportunity in the area. The block, cut off from part of the neighborhood by a highway built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had declined for years; roughly half of the houses were abandoned. …

“ ‘These homes were available to us below $20,000, on average, because they were owned by banks in Florida and other investors who just walked away,’ says Eric Strickland, executive director of Riley Area Development Corporation, which works on community development in and around downtown Indianapolis. …

“The Artist and Public Life Residency program is designed for artists who are particularly interested in community and placemaking. ‘What we’re really looking for, first and foremost, is leadership in trying to invest in the community, and use the talents and resources that you have to support your own neighborhood,’ says Walker. …

“The development corporation wants to encourage other developers to build new affordable housing for the area to help keep the most vulnerable people in place. …

“Big Car is working closely with neighbors, who they say have been supportive of the changes–particularly the potential for local commercial streets to gain new businesses and bringing life to vacant houses.”

More at Fast Company, here.

Photo: Big Car Collaborative

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Whatever works.

Curator Scott Stulen pays attention to what attracts people. At the avant garde Walker Museum in Minneapolis, he actually tapped the popularity of cat videos — and created a mini sensation.

Now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen is curator of the visitor experience.

Writes David Lindquist at the Indy Star, “Newly hired as the first-ever curator of audience experiences and performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen’s assignment is to attract people to the museum’s galleries as well as 100 Acres art and nature park, Tobias Theater, outdoor amphitheater and Lilly House and gardens.

“He comes from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where his track record includes the surprise success of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which brought 10,000 people together in a field in 2012 and then 11,000 paying customers at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. …

“The cat video festival debuted at Open Field, a space adjacent to the Walker where Stulen co-developed projects with the museum, independent artists and the public.

“ ‘We had the ability to do more experimental programs that didn’t make as much sense inside the museum, and had a lot more creative freedom,’ he said.” More here.

2013 Internet Cat Video Festival at the Minnesota State Fair.

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