Can Maywood Be An Arts Hub? Residents Say, ‘The Time Is Now’

Sunday, September 23, 2018 | By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Wendy Holmes, of Artspace, during a Sept. 6 meeting in Maywood to discuss the feasibility of an Artspace development coming to the village. | File 

A group of community leaders and arts advocates in the Proviso Township area want Maywood to become an artistic hub that will attract creatives in all genres and media to the village. The anchor of that plan? The construction of live-work space for artists.

During a meeting on Sept. 6 at the Maywood Park District, 921 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood, around two dozen people met with representatives from Artspace, a Minnesota-based nonprofit developer that specializes in developing affordable housing for artists, work space, art studios, art centers, galleries and similar spaces around the country.

The meeting was part of a feasibility analysis that the nonprofit has been conducting with a local organizing committee. As part of the information-gathering process, Artspace representatives met earlier this month with a group of local artists, as well as with local elected officials.

Wendy Holmes, a senior vice president for Artspace, said during a brief presentation at the Sept. 6 meeting that the nonprofit — which was founded in 1979 — has about 50 projects in development across the country, including 37 cities and 23 states.

Some of those projects are located in Illinois, including the Elgin Artspace Lofts and the Pullman Artspace Lofts.

The Elgin project is a $15.2 million renovation of a historic Sears building that includes the creation of nearly 6,000 square feet of retail and community space for “arts-friendly business and nonprofits organizations,” and 55 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families, according to the project’s website.

The Elgin Artspace Lofts, which include affordable apartments for artists, right. | Artspace 

In Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, Artspace is in the process of turning approximately 18,500 square feet of vacant land “book-ended by two historic apartment buildings” into an $18 million development that includes 38 affordable live/work artist units, exhibition space and community space.

Holmes said that the projects are typically funded and financed through public/private partnerships, which are collaborations between government bodies and businesses, philanthropic organizations, individuals and other entities. Wintrust Bank, the parent company of Proviso Community Bank, co-sponsored the meeting in Maywood and is funding the feasibility study.

Some sources of funding for Artspace projects include tax credits related to preserving and restoring historically significant structures.

Holmes added that not all Artspace projects entail renovating historic buildings. Some projects involve new construction or even a combination of historic preservation and new construction. While in Maywood, Artspace representatives toured six potential sites in the village, which were not disclosed during the Sept. 6 meeting.

Artspace photo_2_Pullman

A rendering of the Pullman Artspace Lofts. | Artspace 

In order to qualify for live/work space in Artspace projects, individuals have to earn less than a designated income level and they must demonstrate that they’re artists by presenting a body of prior work, among other criteria. Interested applicants must also undergo interviews and there’s typically a waiting list.

During the public meeting, most of the people who spoke said that there is an urgent need for an Artspace project in Maywood.

Eddie Hudson, a Maywood painter, said that he would love to see a space where artists can store equipment.

“I know for me, a lot of times I have to go outside to varnish painting and the scent is so strong I literally can’t take it back into the house for hours,” he said. “We need a large space with equipment we can have available.”

Loretta Brown, a member of Maywood’s environmental and beautification commission, said there’s a need for a “space where artists can display their work that also has a coffee shop.”

Maywood resident Eileen Olivier said that she would like to see a space in the village dedicated to live theater.

“We have a lot of talent in Maywood,” Olivier said. “We can also use a children’s museum-type space that would be interactive and that they would enjoy.”

Other attendees called for space dedicated to allowing artists and other entrepreneurs to utilize pop-up shops, with short-term leases. They also called for a space with a community kitchen, in addition to other spaces based on the concept of adaptive reuse.

Aneesha Marwah, a manager with Artspace, said that “when we say artist, we don’t just mean visual artists,” adding that an artists’ development is for creatives in all kinds of artistic fields, including filmmaking and musical composition.

The challenge, many in the audience said, is finding those local creatives and getting them organized. When Artspace representatives asked each attendee to describe the state of the arts, and of individual artists, in Maywood, most of them threw out adjectives like “disjointed,” “invisible,” “fragmented,” “hidden,” and “isolated.”

“The artists are here,” said Mike Dawson, a Maywood filmmaker. “They’re here. They just need to be identified.”

Marwah said that Artspace has completed projects in all types of communities — from those with populations of several hundred to major cities like Chicago. Those places all share a common feature, she said, and that’s an arts community that is organized, involved and energetic.

The Artspace representatives recommended that local artists organize a guild or create some formal alliance that would drive the planning process for a potential Artspace development, the specifics of which would be determined based on what area artists and community members say they need.

Marwah said that after the meeting, Artspace officials would create a report based on their analysis and that, “if everything looks to be a good fit,” would then develop a market study, which includes a quantitative analysis phase wherein they “survey artists’ needs and ask them what they want to pay for space and what type of space they’re interested in.”

Marwah said that they pull artists within “about a 50-mile radius from Chicago,” including from the South Suburbs and places further west of Maywood. There needs to be at least three artists within that radius expressing interest for every proposed residential unit. For instance, a proposed 55-unit development in Maywood would be considered feasible if at least 165 artists within a 50-mile ratio say they’d be willing to purchase a unit.

Most of the artists in any given Artspace development, however, tend to be from the communities where the projects are located, representatives with the nonprofit said.

Lena Hatchett, the director of community and university partnerships at the Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago and one of the co-founders of Proviso Partners for Health, said that Maywood “is the perfect place” to become a regional hub for artists and creatives.

“We have the vision and the resources,” she said. “Our time is now.” VFP 

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2 thoughts on “Can Maywood Be An Arts Hub? Residents Say, ‘The Time Is Now’”

  1. A great place might be the Odd Fellows building on 5th. It is a historic structure in need of repurposing and could be converted into the spaces they are talking about. Could be the catalyst 5th ave needs too!

  2. I believe that it’s time for the village of Maywood can be an Arts hub! There are so many talented artists in Maywood, and it is time for them to receive the exposure that they need. If their neighborhood villages (Oak Park, Forest Park, Melrose Park, River Forest, and etc.) can be an Arts hub, and attract a lot of the residents…I definitely believe Maywood is the next Arts hub.

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