Finding affordable space to create art is a persistent problem in America—not just in big cities, but in small towns and rural areas, too. The longtime nonprofit leader in addressing this issue is Artspace, which is headquartered in Minneapolis and has expanded to offices in Denver, New York, Seattle, New Orleans and D.C. The organization is also involved in Arkansas, working with a grantmaker that's become the top leader in arts philanthropy in that state.
Artspace and the Walton Family Foundation are collaborating in the funder’s home region of Northwest Arkansas. This is the nonprofit's first time working in the state, but it isn’t the first time it has collaborated with a major foundation to advance its goals. In fact, the Ford Foundation and the Kresge Foundation have been among the group’s biggest supporters over the years, providing millions of dollars in funding and using accessible art space as one strategy to tackle local inequalities.
The initial Walton Family Foundation grant of $400,000 is significant, and it's backing research into identifying opportunities for arts-driven economic development in the Arkansas cities of Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale.
While the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the centerpiece of the Walton Family Foundation's arts effort, it has been supporting other key elements, including an art school at the University of Arkansas. Meanwhile, the Windgate Foundation—a local funder that works closely with WFF—recently announced a $40 million gift to the University of Arkansas to create the new Windgate Art and Design District in south Fayetteville.
Looking at ways to ensure affordable space for artists in the region is another logical piece of the broader arts strategy that WFF in pursuing.
"The arts help drive the vitality of Northwest Arkansas downtowns," said Karen Minkel, the Walton Family Foundation’s home region program director. "This study will identify gaps in resources currently available to artists who aspire to live and work in the neighborhoods they serve."