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Making a Place for Artists in New Orleans

Blue Plate Artist Lofts

A problem often seen in up and coming neighborhoods is that the very artists who help spark great communities are priced out when the area takes off. In a city that is known to the world for its art and music, New Orleans is making great efforts to keep artists in the community even as gentrification takes place.

Over the past five years, artist-focused low-income housing has been developed throughout New Orleans, helping artists stay in the community. Making use of underused and blighted properties, recent artist housing developments include Bywater Art Lofts, St. Joe Lofts, and Blue Plate Artist Lofts. More is on the way with Artspace, a Minneapolis based nonprofit, which is planning to convert the abandoned Bell School property in Treme into artist housing and community resource space. By attracting a community of artists in a concentrated area, developers have also helped catalyze neighborhood revitalization.

These housing communities have many characteristics that make them appealing to artists:

  • Affordability – Through a combination of historic tax credits, low-income housing tax credits and cultural facility grants, developers are able to provide artists with an affordable fixed rent. Bywater Art Lofts offers tiers of income-restricted affordability, starting as low as $160 per month for a one bedroom apartment. Stable, affordable rents enable artists to stay in the community as the neighborhood becomes more desirable and more expensive;

  • AmenitiesArchitectural features such as utility sinks for washing paint brushes and tools, soundproof rehearsal rooms for musicians, interior spaces with a modern design, and gallery spaces to display and sell artwork make these developments ideal for artists;

  • Community – With a stated leasing preference for artists, these housing complexes create a community of artists all in one place, fostering more creativity, collaboration and motivation to complete more artwork.

Bell School Arts Campus

By creating low-income housing developments specifically for artists, developers are fostering a creative community that won't be priced out as neighborhoods increase in value. With art and music so integral to the city of New Orleans, artist housing promotes a strong and active arts community as part of a vibrant local economy.

What other benefits do artist communities bring to a city?

Credits: Photos by Jessica Yoon. Data linked to sources.