Loveland’s Affordable Artist Housing Prompts Statewide Movement

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<p>(Corey H. Jones/CPR News)</p>
<p>Governor John Hickenlooper announces the Space to Create Colorado program at the Artspace campus in Loveland on July 27, 2015.</p>

Loveland’s cultural scene now has something in common with much bigger cities like Chicago and New York -- an Artspace facility.

Minneapolis-based nonprofit group Artspace helped develop the new Loveland facility, which has 30 affordable live and work units for artists and their families. Each space is already booked and the wait list has more than 100 names.

Inspired by Artspace, Colorado officials announced Monday that they're taking the concept to eight mountain and rural regions. They say it’s the first time a state has launched an initiative like this.

Gov. Hickenlooper hopes the Space to Create Colorado program will help drive economic growth.

“To be blunt, Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins don’t need that much help,” he said. “The more rural parts of the state are still struggling, so we want to try and put energy into those communities and try and make sure their economy gets a lift as well.”

The state program’s first location will be Trinidad. Officials say they’ll pick a specific site later this year. They hope to complete all nine projects in eight years, with an average cost estimated at $5 million each.

“We’re trying to find ways that we can create long-term housing solutions for artists who don’t make very much money without having them get pushed from one place to another,” Hickenlooper said. “The more you can get creative energy into a community, that energy helps the entire business climate.”

Each state-led project will be unique, says Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries -- the state's arts agency. And projects will be uniquely funded based on the commitment and assets of that region and community.

Filmmaker Caryn Sanchez is one of the first residents at Loveland's Artspace and she says the setting inspires her.

“What’s wonderful about this is I’m living in a building where what I do is acceptable,” she said. "It feels like everyone around me is doing something, and it’s wonderful motivation.”

A few years ago, Sanchez returned to Colorado from Los Angeles. Then she left Denver for her hometown -- Berthoud, Colorado -- to move back in with her parents so she could keep her dream of filmmaking alive. Now she has her own space.

“Because it’s affordable, it means I can be a filmmaker full time,” Sanchez says. “I don’t have to have like three other jobs or anything like that.”

The residential development abuts a former feed and grain building that is expected to be renovated to house creative businesses and organizations as part of the campus.

Artspace also plans to develop projects in Denver and Lakewood. The organization has completed nearly 40 sites across the country, from Seattle to Washington, D.C. The list also includes cities the size of Loveland with its population of more than 71,000.

“There’s a lot of small towns that we’ve worked in that are really passionate about creative people and having a creative vibe, particularly in their downtown,” ArtSpace Senior Vice President Wendy Holmes says. “And it’s something that’s often missing.”