Foundation could help artists find space downtown

Project would allow for multiple studios and a gallery in Springfield’s core.

A new Springfield Foundation initiative may lead to inexpensive new studio space for Springfield’s artists.

The foundation is working with the Springfield Museum of Art to explore creating a center with individual studio rooms for artists, a retail gallery and regular shows, with the goal of increasing the vibrancy of the downtown area, said Ted Vander Roest, foundation director.

“I think any time you have something that will bring more people downtown, it’s going to spill over,” said Vander Roest. “The restaurants downtown, the coffee shops downtown, it just revitalizes the whole thing.”

The Springfield Foundation is applying for a grant from ArtPlace, a collaborative effort funded by 11 foundations, eight federal agencies and six large financial institutions.

ArtPlace provides grants for “creative placemaking,” the use of arts and culture to transform communities, said Tim Halbur, Artplace director of communication.

“What’s exciting about it is that while we have very clear goals about the kind of effect that we want to have, we’ve found that there are a thousand different ways to get there,” Halbur said. “When you put artists and the creative process to work on this problem, on increasing the vibrancy of communities, they come up with really fascinating approaches.”

The organization launched with its first round of grants in September 2011 and has awarded 80 grants, totaling $26.9 million, to 76 organizations across the U.S. The first deadline for the next grant application cycle is Nov. 1 and would fund projects in June 2013.

Grant applications are very competitive. In the last cycle, only 47 projects were funded out of 2,200 applications.

The Springfield Foundation hopes to win support to construct studio spaces, which it would then rent at the break-even cost of $200 to $300 a month. The center would be similar to the Pendleton community studios found in Cincinnati and Middletown, said Vander Roest.

Shelley Sizemore, an acrylic, watercolor and oil artist, has been renting a studio space with four other artists in the Middletown Pendleton since February. She said that they make back their rent money by selling at the center’s popular monthly showings, but that most of the value comes from having art seen by visitors.

“It’s a great way to have people see your work,” she said. “If you want to get started in art, it’s great exposure, but you won’t get rich.”

Vicki Rulli, a local mixed-medium photographer and owner of Itinerant Studio, said she has been looking for what she calls “true artist space,” where artists can work together in a large, interesting setting. She said she thinks that artists would be willing to come from as far as Columbus to take part in the project.

“I think it would not only fill, I think it would attract a lot of people who would want to be part of it,” she said. “Being around other artists is part of being an artist, because you get creative energy, you get ideas. Most artists generally look for that; it’s just not readily available.”

Mark Chepp, director emeritus of the Springfield Museum of Art, said that he will both help organize the project and is interested in renting a studio. He said the studio center would be a natural component of the ongoing development of downtown Springfield.

“The combination of artists actually working in a space and having a vested interest in a space, and then having an opportunity to show their work in the same space, is attractive,” he said. “It just seems like there are certain points in history when critical masses start to form around certain ideas, and I just have a feeling that that’s sort of happening here, now, with this idea.”

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.