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A Practical Guide to Finding a Subsidized Artist Studio

More than ever, artists have begun to work from a home-based artist studio, or lean toward seeking out a shared space to create work alongside fellow artists. This may be convenient for working on a tight schedule or minimizing costs, but what about hosting studio visitors? Having everything at hand to create the work you need (kilns, drafting tables, etc)? Is it possible to focus exclusively on your artwork while you are in close proximity to others, either in a shared space or in your home? For those who are seeking affordable art studios to work in with privacy and confidence, it can be encouraging to know what artist studios are often supported by metropolitan tax authorities or fine art-focused nonprofits. Artist residencies also often have auxiliary spaces for local artists seeking studio space, and will understand the needs of artists working at a site and make sure they have facilities and utilities specific to them that other landlords or sites would not. Knowing how to identify the right opportunities for artists that are affordable, fair, and provide the right access that artists need is crucial when seeking out studio space. This practical guide provides actionable advice for artists serious about finding studio space for the long term that fits their budget.

Here, we pull out all the stops to tackle best practices for artists looking for a must-have guide to finding subsidized – or even free!- artist studio spaces where they can create, engage in dialogue, and forge ahead with new innovations in their artistic practice.

Do The Research, Reap the Rewards

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Paintbrushes Away! Settle into Your Best Artist Studio Yet

While a simple online search can yield results when seeking affordable studio space, targeted social media groups and listing sites are key for artists serious about finding affordable studio space fast. Pivotal resources for artists include the renowned Listings Project site, or even Facebook groups geared toward artists and/or fine art studios. Live near an urban area? Search specifically for “artist open studio tours” in your metropolitan area of choice to uncover which areas are popular for artists and find out which studio buildings have the most available artist studio space. If there’s a studio tour coming up you can even tour open studios and gain insights into which buildings would best suit your needs. When searching by specific geographical area, be sure to look for spaces that are 501(c)(3) designated as nonprofit spaces are incentivized to provide more affordable space for artists than a regular landlord or for-profit building. While studio space in subsidized artist-friendly studio buildings can be limited, until you know which spaces are offering the best rates it’s easy to fall prey to any old commercial building advertising space as an ideal site for “artist studios”. By doing due diligence and putting in the time to research, the best options will become apparent – both in terms of price and for those seeking specific amenities related to their artistic process.

Artist-run nonprofits or artist residencies often have additional space for artists seeking studio space on a more permanent basis. In New York City this includes spaces such as the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and the Lower East Side Printshop. Neighborhood-focused organizations such as the Lower Manhattan Community Council provides subsidized artist spaces for those who apply. Artists seeking studio space in Brooklyn can apply to Trestle Gallery for consideration to work out of their designated artist studio space.

Artist Studio Priorities: Weighing Pros and Cons

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Let Your Artistic Practice Determine Your Artist Studio Priorities

Think about what you are looking for in your studio space: do you seek longevity, a low monthly rent, both? By prioritizing what you really want to gain from your studio space you can nail down the best opportunities and apply specifically for those. While there is substantial competition for affordable artist studio space, by narrowing down and ranking the best fit for your artistic practice you can avoid wasting time and prepare for the shift in your finances and schedule that a new studio demands. For artists unafraid of changing studios every few months, it can be possible to identify opportunities for free studio space and apply for the right opportunities to align a few free studios in a row. For artists who are tied to a geographical location or region, this may be more difficult and the search may be focused around a more permanent, long-term studio solution. In addition, the type of artistic practice an artist runs will determine needs for the studio space – ceramicists will need to find a studio building with a working kiln, while artists such as printmakers and textile artists will need to take specific needs linked to their process into consideration when seeking their next studio space.

Do you drive, or take public transportation? How many hours per week do you have to dedicate to working in a studio? Do you gain most of your income by making art, or do you have another job and make art in addition to this other work? These are important questions not only for you but also for a potential landlord who may have restrictions on who exactly they can rent out studio space to. While it’s more important from a time management perspective for you to be aware of which locations will be a reasonable distance for you to commute to in order to make art, you may be seeking space at a building that is subsidized for artists who make below a certain income threshold and who rely primarily on art sales in order to make a living. This can be true not only for artist studio spaces, but for artist lofts as well: if you are someone who can work at home, and you are seeking a more affordable living situation, applying to be waitlisted for these in-demand artist-only residences can prove worthwhile.

There are many factors to consider when seeking out new, subsidized studio space, but by listing your priorities, knowing your budget, and gauging the length of time you can spend at any one studio location it will be easier to identify the best opportunity once it arises. Stay informed, get insights from current artist tenants, and find knowledgeable landlords who can support your artist studio needs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t feel pressured to move in too quickly if you are not ready. Also, be reasonable when you are approaching an opportunity to rent out a studio space: not every building will have the specific equipment or amenities you need to do your work, so you may need to be practical and find other ways to be resourceful when creating specific bodies of work – for example, when working with steel many buildings will have restrictions on welding and soldering. Talk to artists who have similar needs and see where they are renting studio space, then – if the price isn’t right – hunt around for smaller spaces in the same building, try sub-leasing a space there until you find the right match, or widen your search area until you find the perfect artist studio fit for your needs at a budget that suits you.

Have you nailed the perfect space for a fine artist studio? Have valuable advice for artists looking for subsidized artist studio space, or notes on what to avoid when hunting for affordable studio spaces? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor based in Sunnyside, Queens, where her Chi-Spaniel puppy graciously allows her to cohabit.

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A Practical Guide to Finding a Subsidized Artist Studio

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