Future Fort Collins Artspaces will offer affordable living and studio space for artists

Mq Borocz

Artspace, a non-profit that creates affordable spaces for artists to live and work in all around the country, has turned its sights to the vibrant artistic community in Fort Collins.

Via an office in Denver, Artspace has developed two properties in Colorado: one in Trinidad and one in Loveland. They are also working in 10 other Colorado communities, including Fort Collins, to create more Artspaces. Artists including writers, clothing designers, dancers, musicians and visual artists, can live and work together in Artspaces.


Wendy Holmes, Artspace’s senior vice president for consulting and strategic partnerships, said that she loves working in Colorado.

“A lot of people define themselves as creative people across the state,” Holmes said. “Colorado, I think, has the highest concentration of creative people of any state in the United States.”

Holmes said Artspace only works by invitation from communities. Their work in Fort Collins is done in partnership with the City, the Downtown Development Authority and the Bohemian Foundation.

Artspace conducted a preliminary feasibility study last October to access the technicalities of creating an Artspace in town and identify potential areas for development. In an email to the Collegian, Matt Robenalt, executive director of the DDA, said they will publish a review of the feasibility study later this month and share the next steps to creating a Fort Collins Artspace with the public.

Bonnie Lebesch, a local artist who specializes in abstract painting, thinks an Artspace in Fort Collins is a great idea that would benefit the community.

“I think that Artspace is a phenomenal organization and what they are doing is phenomenal,” Lebesch said. “(The people who run it) are so professional and they really, really know what they’re doing.”

Lebesch said part of what an Artspace would do in Fort Collins is raise more community awareness for the arts and for artists by creating a destination where people can interact with local artists and their art. Even though there are several places for artists to show off their work in town, there could definitely be more, Lebesch said. And, while there are several places where artists can rent studio space, there is still another problem: affordable housing.

“I myself live in an apartment downtown,” Lebesch said. “I’ve had my studio here because it’s been a large space. But the rents have gone up so high that I have to move, and I’m moving into a much smaller space.”

Lebesch said she has to reduce her living space and her studio space, and if that does not work out, she might have to consider trying to find a separate studio space. Many artists live and work in places they rent or buy, but others live with their families since housing is so expensive, Lebesch said.

Sage Helperman, a local artist who creates ink drawings and paintings, said some artists live with others or couch surf.


While a Fort Collins Artspace would provide affordable housing to artists, it is not for everyone because it can be very community-oriented, Lebesch said. However, she said that many people thrive in them, like artist Gigi Deal.

Deal loves living and working in the Loveland Artspace where there are 30 spaces, including spaces with one, two and three bedrooms. She said that living in an Artspace is living in a community of people that support each other.

“We eat together, we have outdoor events in the summer where we all gather together, we talk about things,” Deal said. “They’re more than neighbors now, they’re friends. We call each other our Artspace fam. We tend to inspire each other. Everybody wants to go a step further because they are inspired.”

Deal said there is a misconception that Artspace holds artists’ hands and walks them into the community, but that this is not true.

“You have to do it yourself, but (Artspace) gives you some tools,” Deal said. “They believe that the ambition and the innovation in artists will shine above if they give us subsidized housing and a place to show our artwork. We’re going to do the rest. You have to have the passion and the idea process of building something greater than yourself. That’s all you have to have.”


Collegian reporter MQ Borocz can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MQBorocz22.