Posted on: January 23, 2024, 04:12h.
Last updated on: January 23, 2024, 04:12h.
The City of Las Vegas wants to bring art back to its art district. It already commissioned a feasibility study to create new affordable housing for artists to live and work in the downtown area it refers to as 18b.
The City intends to partner with ArtSpace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that operates 57 properties across the U.S. as affordable housing for artists, with another 13 on the way. (About 60% of its projects are redevelopment, 40% new construction.)
It may not be news when another city allows rising rents to evict its artists from the neighborhood that they themselves revitalized. But it is news when a city tries to reverse that common trend — when it values, or at least appears to value, the quality of a community as much as the quantity of the tax revenue it could earn when its buildings sell exclusively to the highest bidder.
“I know that the folks in the city tend to be business-forward, but they are working with residents, so we can’t keep saying they don’t care because they do,” said Becky Miller, the president of 18b. “I think this city is just trying to become a bigger and better city.”
The city’s study looked at potential sites, funding, and financing for the new housing project. And, apparently, the preliminary news was good. Now, the city and ArtSpace are conducting town halls and focus groups with artists, creatives, and cultural organizations to gather community input.
“The Arts District has exploded,” Las Vegas Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Director Maggie Plaster said during a town hall meeting last week. “Everybody wants to be there. Restaurants and bars have been moving in but that has been pushing the artists and the creatives out of the district.”
Art Imitates Strife
18b — so named because it is an 18-block zone — was an impoverished neighborhood, its streets lined with needles and welfare hotels, when it was created in 1998 to foster art and artists.
About 15 years ago, however, rents began to rise along with the community. This attracted property developers who built condos and apartments for the wealthy, and turned former art galleries into breweries and gastropubs.
Now, 10 breweries line what Mayor Carolyn Goodman dubbed in 2021 “Brewery Row” inside 18b, but very few working artists can afford to live there anymore. Many just rent one of the 30 working-only spaces in the Arts Factory collective or the 16 in Art Square.
“Of course, property owners are going to sell for as much as they can,” Miller said. “You can’t blame them. But there are a number of people who still have a heart and the desire to keep art and to promote art in the area.”
After it finishes gathering input, ArtSpace will prepare recommendations for next steps for the city.
“I don’t think that this is a panacea,” Miller said. “I don’t think that just slapping up a building is going to bring artists in, but we have to start somewhere. And if we don’t start somewhere, we’ll never get to where we want to go.”