Why an Artist Live/Work Space?

An artist live/work space provides combined affordable live/work options for artists of all genres – spaces that create community around the arts and boost the local economy while simultaneously producing creative works, renewing neighborhoods, producing jobs, and even helping the environment.

However, most of all, these spaces cater to the needs of artists, providing collaborative environments for creating and envisioning more impactful work; they are vital for building arts and culture-driven cities that contribute to overall economic development and thriving, dynamic communities.

Artist live/work spaces have boosted economies and engaged communities in cities across the U.S., bringing art to the heart of cultural and economic development.


Why Our Region?

The capital city area has proven itself to be rich in creativity, and the arts have played an important role in its transformation over the years, making it a perfect candidate for a live/work space.

Utilizing a grant from the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing brought together artists and experts, both locally and nationally.

Through a series of three workshops, the Arts Council opened the doors for conversation. The objective of each session was to offer resources and knowledge for these small businesses that are traditionally underserved and underrepresented to have the opportunity to gain knowledge of the planning process at all levels of government


The Sessions: The Beginnings of 517 Creative Spaces

Session 1

A statewide perspective with artist Jane Robinson, Armory Arts Project, Jackson, Mich.

The first session in the series offered a statewide perspective from Jane Robinson who was actively involved in the Armory Arts Project of Jackson, Mich. Jane helped area artists and residents gain perspective and vision and provided a platform for attendees to ask lots of questions. Jane’s session focused on the “good, bad and the ugly” from her perspective, as she shared what worked and what mistakes were made.

The $12 million renovation of the original cell blocks and drill hall were completed in late 2007 and artists moved in early in 2008. There were many challenges, obstacles and setbacks, including environmental contamination issues, skeptics and naysayers, and ultimately, fewer artists in residence than desired.

In spite of it, Jackson has taken the 16-acre site of the original state penitentiary and has redeveloped it as a catalyst for community and economic development, downtown revitalization and repositioning Jackson’s identity as a center for the arts.

Session 2

A national perspective with Heidi Kurtze of Artspace, Minneapolis, Minn.

The second session featured a national perspective from Heidi Kurtze of Artspace of Minneapolis – a nonprofit real estate developer. Artspace runs a network of 35 affordable arts facilities in 14 states. Representing a $500 million investment in America’s arts infrastructure, their facilities provide more than 1,100 affordable live/work units for artists and their families.

Heidi shared with us the process it takes to create, own and operate affordable spaces for artists and creative business and outlined options for funding from public and private sources.

She explained the extensive timeline for development that involves community engagement and how each project addresses the unique needs of a specific community. She also shared information concerning what makes the spaces sustainable and what cities gain from having them.

Session 3

A local perspective and panel with area municipal and community leaders 

The local panel session, held at the Marshall St. Armory Community Room, included area municipal and community leaders for an open discussion that got down to the brass tacks of how the capital region could support an artist live/work space.

The panel provided a variety of perspectives and looked at next steps that need to happen should Lansing want to pursue creating such a space. The group offered a variety of options that could serve the Lansing area in ways that are unique to the community.

The panel shared ideas regarding the impact that could be generated by this kind of space in areas that are walkable, visible, affordable and part of the urban core.

Topics at the center of the conversation included identifying unique spaces – schools, warehouses, residential housing, etc. and turning liabilities into assets. They explored larger concepts of market studies, site plan reviews, zoning variances, certificates of occupancy, permitting and working with professional developers who can help identify and address challenges long before they become concerns. All agreed that greater Lansing is primed to find the right project and has the resources to do so.


  • Lori Mullins, Community and Economic Development Administrator, City of East Lansing
  • Bob Rose, former Public Service Department-Engineering Division, City of Lansing
  • Eric Schertzing, Ingham County Treasurer and Ingham County LandBank
  • Terry Terry, President, Message Makers
  • Pat Gillespie, Gillespie Group