Pittsfield survey to assess artists' 'wants and needs' for downtown living, work spaces


PITTSFIELD --- An online survey of artist work and living spaces in the downtown cultural district has generated a strong response, city officials said.

The grant-funded effort, which began April 28, will extend for the next few weeks. It seeks comments and feedback from artists, cultural organizations and others about artist "wants and needs" concerning the spaces they work and live in, said Megan Whilden, the city's cultural development director.

The survey includes questions about current artist spaces, their needs, economic situations and desired working and living spaces. Other questions refer to the type of media artists are working with.

A consultant, Louise Stevens of ArtsMarket Inc., was hired through a $20,000 ArtistLink program grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, said Bonnie Galant, of the Department of Community Development. The consultant's report to the city is expected in June, Galant said.

Stevens met with a group of a local artists and then with representatives from local cultural organizations.

"There is a lot of interest in co-work spaces," Whilden said, in which different artists share studio or work space and possibly access to equipment or technology.

There is less of a demand for living space, she said, as rents in the Pittsfield area are comparatively less expensive than in other cultural regions or larger cities. However, there is a need for temporary housing during the summer/fall season.

Artists also are seeking opportunities to communicate and interact creatively and socially, Whilden said, adding that the relative isolation of a rural area can become a problem.

Galant said the effort will include an inventory of current and potential artist spaces in the cultural district and a review of zoning changes that might facilitate development of work or living spaces for artists. "This will hopefully lead to something more flexible" in terms of arts-related zoning, she said.

The consultant also has decided to conduct a secondary survey among artists in New York City and possibly other cities to determine their level of interest in the Pittsfield area and what their needs here might entail. "There is interest in Pittsfield because there is low-cost housing and the arts and culture emphasis here," Galant said.

The artist survey was developed by ArtsMarket Inc. A link to the survey has been posted on the city's website at www.cityofpittsfield.org, as well as the Office of Cultural Development's Facebook page.

The survey also can be accessed directly at www.surveymethods.com/Preview.aspx, and it will be distributed to area artists via electronic mailing lists.

There are approximately 40 working artist studios in Pittsfield's Upstreet Cultural District, including nine in the city-owned Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Rennie Avenue and there is a demand for more space.

"Local artists have played a vital role in the revitalization of our downtown from the beginning," said Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi. "The study produced with this grant will help us ensure the creative sector continues to be a vibrant part of our community and help us assist property owners to successfully meet the needs of working artists."


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