Sustainable community asset ownership in the arts
The Research Question
Artists and arts organisations across the artforms struggle to find affordable and appropriate spaces to operate in for the long term. The cost is prohibitive in many cases or tenure is insecure. This impacts on their ability to undertake long term planning and development and build sustainable communities.
While a common solution to this is securing a community lease from council, these are limited in availability. In addition, councils such as Auckland tend towards asset divestment rather than growth.
The research asks if a solution to this is to support arts organisations to own their own spaces?
The hypothesis is that ownership enables stability, enabling the arts organisation to focus on its core mahi. Ownership also opens up other financial options. While ownership seems a daunting prospect, there are international and local examples available which show ownership is a viable and realistic expectation.
The anticipated outcome of the research is to develop locally relevant and usable models from to make ownership available to more arts groups.
These models would build on international models and local innovation in creating financial and social models of property acquisition and transfer.
The Community Arts Stabilisation Trust (CAST) in San Francisco who create innovative financial vehicles to secure permanent space in urban city centres for community arts and culture organisations: literally buying buildings on behalf of cultural organisations, increasing the financial acumen of the organisations in the process.
That’s a big money, resource hungry approach. Another approach is community asset transfer. In Wellington in 2014 the Vogelmorn Bowling Club building was put up for sale. Noting that any profit from the sale would have to be distributed to charitable ends, a local arts collective – Vogelmorn Community Group – was formed to enable the bowling club to take an alternative approach, selling the building, which was only one part of the facility, for a nominal sum to the arts collective.
Another example of this is in the Auckland Old Folks Association. Artist Sean Curham was working with members of the Old Folks Association and became aware they were struggling with a declining membership. He facilitated the entry of a group of artists into the Association’s
membership, and onto the board of trustees. The society’s property technically never changed hands, and the property enjoys new life as a vibrant, active, multi-use art space.
These are either ad hoc and one off examples or international models which aren’t being trialed in the arts in Aotearoa yet. The opportunity exists to learn from them and build innovative models for community asset transfer or acquisition that are appropriate to the arts in Aotearoa.
The project is driven by an already articulated and understood need in the arts community for appropriate, affordable and accessible places to do their work.
The people Lana Lopesi interviewed for her February 2022 Metro article What happens when artists can’t afford places to make art?, were clear about the struggle to access appropriate space to make art in Auckland.
In Josephine Caust’s 2021 research on sustainability in the arts a key finding was that artists need “four conditions in place to be able to practice successfully as artists: a regular income, a place to do their work, capacity to do their work and validation of their work.”
A finding of both the 2019 Creative Spaces Survey and the 2021 research report “Creating Change: The economies of arts organisations working towards social justice and wellbeing for rangatahi young people in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland” was that youth and access arts organisations are concerned about security of accommodation and access to space.
These are merely the most recent examples or artists and arts organisations identifying the impact precarious and unaffordable places are having on the sector.
The arts community are at the centre of this project through community research and the outcomes and models will be shaped by the needs, opportunities and risks specific to the arts community in Aotearoa.
The project summary
The project undertakes research within the arts community, and with financial, legal and property experts to understand the range of possibilities for property acquisition and the implications of each, as well as the longer term benefits and risks of owning your own place.
The project’s focus is on financial and infrastructure innovation and will use the research to develop testable models that both learn from existing models and tailor them for the arts sector in New Zealand.These models involve ethical, legal and financial frameworks, identify considerations and provide toolkits that organisations and collectives can use to achieve sustainable places to work.
This project has the potential to transform how we think about and do property acquisition and ownership in the arts and bring about more sustainable practice conditions for artists and the arts sector.
Start Date: Mid November 2022
Projected Finish Date: March 2024