What do artists need?

A comment back on one of the empty schools posts, has got me a wondering. We talk about creating spaces for artists, arts districts, etc. but that got me to wondering about what exactly do artists (and what kind of artists) need. Individual artists, groups/companies of artists, professional and amateur artists, what is it that they need? ‘Cause I don’t want to assume too much.
First, I started thinking about what kind of artist. Visual arts? Performing arts? What do dancers need? I know certain dancers need a space with a sprung wooden floor (concrete flooring is bad for the knees). I know there are several musicians in the neighborhood at various levels (music teachers, band members, amateurs, etc). In the visual arts range there are two artists (with day jobs) on my block. Lastly, I know of one actor/waiter, I’m going to gather there might be more hiding amongst us.
Second, what do these people need? Practice space? Work space? Exhibit space? Performance spaces? And follow that up with how would the spaces be provided?
Anyway, just wondering out loud. But if you are an artist of any sort feel free to comment and say what you need. As a crappy flute player, I need instruction, and neighbors tolerating the sound of scales played over, and over, and over again.

7 thoughts on “What do artists need?”

  1. visual artists in dc need light-industrial zoned work spaces in close proximity to one another.

    arts districts arent really for artists. they’d be dreamy if they could work that way, but really, artists usually can’t afford them. great for lovers of the arts though.

  2. Good post, thanks for considering the practical side of the ‘starving artist’ scene. I’m a dancer, craftswoman, visual artist, musician, multimedia/video artist, and writer, with a full-time day job. I’ve searched high and low, in relatives’ basements, slum-standard studios, and even garages for a space appropriate to make the leap from part-time artist to full-time. I find the hardest obstacle is finding a place to live AND work in. There are places such as the artists’ co-op in Mt. Vernon, however with rent at $600, an an income cap around poverty level, I personally know artists who live there who don’t have the money for supplies and equipment. And if they do, they (me) make too much money to live there (not saying much!)

    That said, most of us (artists) are used to bare-bones living, and don’t need anything fancy. Most other artists and my needs, even with the diversity of work, are pretty simple:

    -Open space: square or rectangular, nothing fancy. This allows us to maximize the space for storage, as well as being easy to soundproof with cheap materials like recycled foam or carpet. Floors are a problem for dancers, but unless the space is dedicated to dancing, it’s not cost-effective to install flooring.

    -Big utility sink: cleaning up paints, and the occasional band food fight. The plumbing can also be directed to dark room equipment (a mod the artist can do with supplies from Home Depot).

    -Sufficient electrical hookups: For computers, musical gear, photography lights, dark room supplies, air-brush compressors, etc. This may be the biggest cost to the building…windmills and solar energy, anyone???

    -Small bathroom and stand-up shower, to save space.

    -Murphy bed, to save space, maybe with shelves on the sides for clothes.

    And that’s about it. I say, those classrooms are just about the perfect size, eh?


  3. My best friend’s fiance is a music teacher. They are hoping to find a detached single family home so she can practice and give piano (& possibly voice) lessons. Condo and townhouse walls are too thin to do what she needs to do without disturbing the neighbors. Though they are in the education field and make jack squat, their combined income probably would make them too rich. But their lousy combined income plus complete lack of homebuilding skilz (for fixer uppers), will make their house hunting hard.
    I’m also thinking that they couldn’t live in my house because the piano would never fit through the front door.

  4. There is a crying need for practice and rehearsal space for performing arts and work space for visual artists. Without studios for the practice of performing and visual arts, all art in DC will be imported. We need more places to make art, not consume it.

    Studios require specialized sound insulation, lighting, ventilation, plumbing, kilns, canvas drying racks, clean rooms, waste disposal, security. With active scheduling, these facilities can be shared by many artists. That also means costs can be split among more artists as

  5. Maybe some artists need to be thinking like businessmen (or indeed businesswomen). I meet a lot of artists that can’t do what they love on a full time basis because they can’t sell their work. That’s a real shame.

  6. DC Dance Collective on Wisconsin rents out rehearsal space for pretty cheap. They also rent out for non-dance related events -202 362-7244.

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