Last year, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs and the Denver County Cultural Council hired Artspace Projects, Inc. to conduct an online survey meant to assess the need for space among those in the creative fields, including the visual arts. The survey results, released at a town hall meeting at the Oriental Theater on May 14, can be found at here.
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By looking at the numbers, it’s apparent that there were two types of responders: artists and representatives of businesses or institutions. While the aim of the survey was to learn about how to stimulate economic development based on the arts, the answers from the artists also reveal the economic difficulties of being an artist in Denver.
Nearly half of the artist responders earn less than 10 percent of their income from the sale of their work. And that income is low, with around a third earning less than 60 percent of the median income for the metro area. That’s why half of them can only afford to pay $250 a month for studio space. But a beer pocketbook doesn’t prevent these artists from having champagne tastes, as more than 90 percent of them want a studio in central Denver -- like those that will be available soon at the still-under-construction RedLine (pictured) at 2350 Arapahoe Street. About 50 percent of the artists would also consider a location in Northwest Denver.
A flaw in the study -- common to most surveys -- is that the results may not be generally applicable to the art community at large because the conclusions are based only on those who responded. I notice, for example, that a third of the individual artists claim that they have no studio space at all, which means that they are not really professional artists.
That big a number of posers in the sampling definitely throws-off the credibility of the conclusions. But it doesn’t take a mind reader, let alone a demographer, to realize that poor artists need cheap studio space. Though these days, they just might have to leave Denver for Aurora or Commerce City in order to get it. -- Michael Paglia