For these artists, home is where the art is
Jac Flats is an affordable housing complex in Minneapolis that was developed by nonprofit Artspace and provides artists with a place to live, create, and belong.
Imagine a place where artists — musicians, painters, writers, and more — can live affordably, create their craft, and collaborate with one another.
The nonprofit Artspace created just such a haven in northeast Minneapolis. Called Jac Flats (short for Jackson Flats), it aims to ease artists’ struggle to find affordable housing. The 35 units are larger than typical affordable units so artists can work in their homes.
“I think being able to create in the space that you live is great because a lot of times your art comes from your experiences,” says Topé Daniel, a writer who left a career in hotel management and moved to Minneapolis from Boston to focus on her craft full time.
She appreciates being around other artists to collaborate and share ideas. “A lot of times when you’re around artists in general, you have a mindset and appreciation for the abstract,” she says. “There’s an understanding that you’re trying to be creative. I think when you have that it keeps you motivated and keeps you going.”
One way Artspace works to differentiate its projects from other affordable housing developments is through a focus on community. When residents apply for housing, they also present their portfolio of work. “We don’t judge their art,” says Greg Foley, Asset Manager for Artspace, “but we do assess each artist’s story and how they would fit into the community.”
Two common gallery spaces at Jac Flats give artists a place to show their work.
Resident Wendy Frieze curated the October show at Jac Flats. “We have a variety of artists here, and with each show we present the work so it seems cohesive,” she says. Wendy says the communal garden and weekly dinners in the summer augment the advantages of living at Jac Flats.
Topé says, “There’s always something to talk about, there’s always conversation, everyone is very welcoming and just very open. You’re always exchanging ideas, exchanging humanity.”
One of Topé’s next-door neighbors is the Cox family: Adam, Kara, and their two young children. The apartment gives Adam and Kara space to work on their art and raise Ava and Finley, as well.
“For me to be able to be at home, take care of my kids, and also be able to create at the same time is absolutely essential,” says Kara, who creates jewelry. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t live in a place like this.”
Adam, who’s a musician, adds, “I just love the fact that my daughter and my son are around artists and encouraged to think outside of the box.”
Artspace is the largest developer of housing and work-related spaces for artists in the U.S.
“Artspace is an unusual organization in that they’re a very entrepreneurial nonprofit. They’ve also been true to their mission — building better communities through the arts — since their founding in 1979,” says John Skogmo of Wells Fargo Advisors, who sits on Artspace’s board of directors and executive committee. He previously served as the board’s chairperson.
John learned about Artspace more than 10 years ago through friends who were looking for audit and finance expertise on projects the nonprofit launched. He then connected Artspace with Wells Fargo, and the two have worked together on several projects.
Greg says the company has developed more than 30 affordable housing communities for artists across the country. “Our mission is to help stem the tide of gentrification that happens in neighborhoods that originally attract artists but then become too expensive as the areas are renovated and gain popularity.”
Financing affordable housing
Rochelle Dotzenrod of Wells Fargo Community Lending and Investment says, “All of these affordable housing projects require a number of financing sources.” Wells Fargo provides capital for Artspace by purchasing low-income housing tax credits), and Artspace also raises funds through private donations.
For Jac Flats, Wells Fargo has provided more than $8 million in construction loans and permanent (or long-term) debt, and has made more than $6.9 million in an equity investment.
Wells Fargo works with established affordable housing developers, such as Artspace, who know a specific geographical area and how the local market works, according to Wells Fargo’s Lesley Eckstein, head of Community Lending and Investment.
She says providing affordable housing is important to Wells Fargo. “When an affordable housing project is created, it transforms the quality of life for the residents. And the residents form a community that shares common interests. Through the improved quality of life, it can lead to the emergence of small businesses, new jobs, and the education of children. All of these things, in turn, also then improve the quality of life in a neighborhood. It’s a continuous cycle,” she says.