the challenges of finding “maker space”
Artfront Galleries’ primary activity is producing 30 day nonprofit art galleries in vacant or underused spaces North of the Board Street Station in Newark. The benefits are many. In addition to providing opportunities to artists to show and sell their work, residents in these under served areas can take advantage of rich cultural experiences. Small businesses near these galleries receive additional patronage. Consequently crime rates are likely to go down with the lights on and increased traffic in the neighborhood.
The challenge is finding property owners willing to make their empty storefronts available as “maker space.” In many cases they are simply warehousing the buildings. On June 21 Artfront Galleries surveyed the area from the Broad Street station along Broad Street and up Broadway one block past Bloomfield. In those few blocks there are 73 businesses and of that number 20 of them are shuttered and have been for more than a year. That is one vacant storefront for every 3.7 spaces Artfront Galleries believes that the city should intervene with these property owners and persuade (or coerce) them to make these properties available for use as “maker space.”
On the occasion that we find a willing owner we run into additional hurdles obtaining a TCO. These pop-up art galleries are open approximately 20 hours a week for four weeks. The visitors to these galleries stay for perhaps an hour. Artfront Galleries provides a one million-dollar liability policy for the run of the show so both the property owners and attendees are covered. We fail to see the necessity of having the walls sheet rocked before we are allowed to use the space. However, the inspectors have no flexibility and must check every box. We (the art community) need a new definition of “Raw Space” and “Occupancy”.