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Artspace's Sailboat Bend loft project.
Sarasota Monday, Jul. 27, 2015 4 years ago

Arts Alliance readies Artspace fundraising push

In need of $40,000 for the next stage of a possible artist live/work housing project, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County is asking the public to help chip in.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

It’s been more than a year since a preliminary feasibility study highlighted potential sites for an artist live/work housing project in Sarasota.

Despite high hopes at the time and promises from stakeholders to aggressively pursue the next exploratory steps, the project has largely fallen out of the public consciousness, with fundraising efforts drying up over the past eight months.

The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the group that spearheaded the effort early last year, is preparing a renewed push to move forward. After enlisting the help of the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Artspace, a firm that specializes in the development of live/work space for artists, the arts alliance is determined to reenergize residents and local groups to invest in additional research regarding a potential project.

When Artspace representatives first visited Sarasota in April 2014, it was seen as a potential step toward addressing several problems. In particular, supporters believed it could help offset the lack of affordable housing in the area and the lack of redevelopment on blighted segments of the North Trail.

After Artspace finished a preliminary report regarding the feasibility of a project in May, the Arts and Cultural Alliance hoped to raise $50,000 to help cover the expense of a more detailed market survey. To date, according to arts alliance Executive Director Jim Shirley, it's raised around $7,500 of that total — and he's hopeful the public can help fill the gap.

"That’s what we're trying to do right now, raise the money to give us more hard, definitive information," Shirley said.

Shirley said the alliance plans to reach out to the general public and other interested parties to raise half of the group’s new $40,000 fundraising goal. After raising about $20,000, Shirley said, he believes the alliance can go to private and foundation sources to gather the rest of the money. Soon, the Arts and Cultural Alliance will unveil a public crowdsourcing campaign to help raise funds toward the project.

Those interested in contributing toward the study can contact the Arts and Cultural Alliance for additional information.

The market study would be designed to gather information from interested stakeholders within a 50-mile radius of Sarasota, Shirley said. Through the survey, Artspace would work to collect data regarding the prospective tenants of such a housing project, the sites on which a project could be built and the economic reality of funding and running a nonprofit, affordable housing development in the community.  

"Even though we all know in our hearts and our guts this would be a good project, we've got to get some good information on the feasibility," Shirley said.

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