According To A New Survey, Kansas City Artists Want More Affordable Housing And Shared Spaces

Aug 1, 2017

What do artists in the Kansas City metropolitan area want when it comes to space? What are the top creative space priorities? 

To find out, Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer, conducted a regional arts market study from October 2016 to January 2017. A total of 515 artists and 101 arts organizations or creative businesses responded to the online survey. 

Wendy Holmes, Artspace senior vice president for consulting and strategic partnerships, told Kansas City Council members that it was "an excellent response from a community of your size."

An architectural rendering of Pendleton ArtsBlock, a mixed-income, mixed-use development in the works for Pendleton Heights in Kansas City's historic Northeast. It's envisioned as an affordable option for artists and public housing residents.
Credit courtesy DRAW Architecture + Urban Design

On Thursday, Holmes shared the results of the market study at the city council business session. The data, she said, helps to quantify demand, identify where creatives want to be located, and narrow down design. 

The top three preferred locations for artists included Crossroads Arts District, West Bottoms, and Midtown. Arts organizations and creative businesses followed suit, with a slightly higher interest in Westport.

"The majority [of artists] were interested in some kind of shared creative space with specialized equipment: makerspace, shared studios and the like," she said. "The second highest demand was for creative work space, so studio space where artists can come to a space and do their craft.

"And then you had a very strong response, also, for the residential component, including the live/work space, where artists can live and work within the same space, and not need to rent a separate space in order to do their work."

According to Holmes, nearly 50 percent of the artists who responded to the survey were at or below the median income in Kansas City. And about 25 percent of the artists reported making between 50 and 100 percent of their income from their art.

"That is higher than you typically see. Ten percent of artists nationally make 100 percent of their income from their art," she said. "It is pretty typical that artists and creative people need to hold down two to three other jobs in order to pursue their creative careers."

She added, "What we find is with stable, affordable space, over time they don't have to hold down as many jobs in order to be successful, creative people contributing to your community." 

Based on the data, Artspace made the following recommendations to city officials: 

  • Up to 60 units of affordable live/work residential apartments
  • Up to 40 units of private studio work space
  • 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of creative commercial co-working/shared space

As a first step, Holmes suggested a mixed-use facility. 

"The challenge here is that there's a higher overall cost than traditional affordable housing," she said. "But it also makes the projects and the neighborhoods more lively if you mix the two together."

To date, Artspace has completed 46 projects in 30 cities in 19 states. According to Holmes, they just broke ground on their 50th project, which is located in Mesa, Arizona. 

The survey was commissioned by the Office of Culture and Creative Services and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. The full report is available here

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.