Monday Musing – Why Arts Space Needs to be Purpose-Built.

Arts and culture facilities create vibrancy and inspire cities. An infrastructure that supports the arts and culture ecosystem of a community provides a way for us to tell our stories, live creative lives, create identity, attract visitors to our city, and is an essential aspect of an artist’s career.

From the moment an idea is born, and through the entire creative process, arts space is vital to each stage of development. When we think of appropriate and accessible space for the arts, we often think of the end product of the presentation. Galleries, concert halls, stage performances, live productions also have the critical preparatory requirement of rehearsal or workspace.

Each discipline has specific needs that must be met for the safety of the artist, the quality of the final product, security, enhanced performance, and for all the behind the scenes support. Here are a few examples:

Dance Studios typically need an open space with a sprung floor to prevent injuries and height to allow for not only jumps and lifts but also for plenty of fresh air. There must also be consideration of office space, change rooms, and space for instrumental music. Heating and ventilation must also be considered, as well as the quality of sound and lighting.

Artist Studios need the proper ventilation and natural lighting along with the ability to get messy. Considerations should also be made for larger tools such as pottery wheels, easels, and shelving for drying. Adequate heating, cooling, and humidity is also a consideration.

Music Studios need adequate acoustics inside the venue for maximum quality and at the same time, minimize the buildup of sound and reduce vibration. The building’s acoustic insulation must also be addressed to comply with noise regulations. Electrical requirements should not only satisfy building regulations but must also meet the demands of the musicians.

Writers need space similar to office space with some storage capacity. It is ideal to have both individual and group space available to allow for private writing and the opportunity for collaboration, readings, workshops, public talks, and general community writing activities.

Theatre Arts spaces require office and admin space, rehearsal space, and performance space. The space needed for the construction of sets, prop storage, or costume design is a must along with dedicated rehearsal space. The technical requirements of the rehearsal space should match that of the performance space to allow for experimenting with light and sound.

As you can see from the above examples, meeting demands are compounded by differing needs within each discipline and also the level at which an artist is operating. Professional artists whose livelihoods depend on their practice will have distinct requirements compared to amateur, educational, and private instruction artists.

To value the arts, we must value the artists and ensure that appropriate, secure, accessible, and affordable facilities are available for long-term use. The power of arts and culture to diversify our economy, while shaping our city’s identity is needed for the future of the arts. Purpose-built space is integral to the significant contribution that the arts provide to the well-being and sustainability of our communities.

The Value of Artists’ Studios
Cultural Infrastructure: An Integral Component of Canadian Communities
Arts Space: Demand and Needs Analysis
Building on Our Momentum
Best Practice Guidelines for Live Music Venues