If a push for artist housing along Sarasota’s North Trail is to continue moving ahead, stakeholders will have to show their support with their wallets.
Earlier this month, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County held a meeting to update interested parties on the status of the community effort to secure a live/work housing project. The organization is working with Minneapolis nonprofit Artspace to evaluate the feasibility of such a project in the area.
Jim Shirley, director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, said early indications from Artspace were positive. After a two-day visit in April, the group’s preliminary feasibility report said an artist housing project could help transform the North Trail. It also said there’s a strong possibility that the market warrants such a project.
Still, it recommended that the community conduct an “arts market survey” to better gauge the demand.
“They encouraged us to move forward with a comprehensive survey of artists and arts organizations to determine the need,” Shirley said. “Is there a need? Could we sustain the project?”
That market survey comes with a $42,500 price tag. The Arts and Cultural Alliance is working to raise $50,000 to cover the survey and other expenses related to the Artspace work, looking to businesses, government, local organizations and individual donors to help reach its goal.
The organization raised $15,000 to bring Artspace in for the April visit, aided by donations from the city of Sarasota, the Sarasota Alliance for Historical Conservation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The group has already raised $10,000 for the survey, aided by North Trail businesses hoping to spark redevelopment.
After the two-month survey is conducted, Artspace would provide an analysis of the findings. That report would include recommendations for the next step of the project and potential sites of interest, Shirley said.
He hopes to secure funding by the beginning of next year, and the Arts and Cultural Alliance is planning a series of fundraisers to help move the project forward. Shirley said he hopes the project will appeal to a wide variety of stakeholders, which would help with fundraising.
“It really needs to be a whole community-wide effort to put it together,” Shirley said.