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Supporting cultural space

Space to create and share work is vital for Boston’s arts and creative ecosystem. We need to act now to secure and create cultural space.

Boston has lost several creative workspaces and cultural venues over the last decade. Other cultural spaces are under threat today. This space instability is limiting all other aspects of our work. We want to see no net loss of cultural space in Boston. This means that any cultural space under threat needs to be secured or re-provided and new cultural space should be created.

The arts are essential to so many different aspects of our city. They are important to our quality of life, community resiliency, and Boston’s economy. Artists and cultural organizations need to be in Boston to:

  • develop their talents
  • serve their communities, and
  • share their work.

Equitable access to space is a key priority of our office. We need cultural space in all neighborhoods.

Humphreys Street Studio artists paint campaign slogans on property roofs in support of #ARTWORKSHERE campaign.

Models for action

Models for action

Mass Cultural Council manages this fund in collaboration with MassDevelopment. It provides major improvement grants to nonprofit cultural organizations.

This is a city-sponsored public development authority and mission-driven real estate agency. It was created to develop and steward permanently affordable space for arts and culture.

CAST purchases and leases space for the exclusive use of nonprofit arts organizations.

This would require cultural space or funding for cultural space as part of commercial space developments. Recent zoning amendments in the South End have established this as a tool in Boston.

  • Model: Increase Linkage Fees in order to allocate a % to cultural space projects and programs.

Boston’s current Linkage Program requires commercial developments over 100,000 square feet in Boston to pay into funds. These funds support the creation of affordable housing and workforce development. A small increase and percentage allocation would create millions of dollars for cultural space.

Create more low-interest or forgivable loans for cultural space projects and operators.

The Creative Land Trust was established in London. The goal is to secure long-term, affordable space for artists and creatives. It does this through a social enterprise which takes on the ownership of buildings.

DSNI aims to empower residents to create a vibrant neighborhood in collaboration with community partners. This includes Community Land Trust mechanisms.

BASE's goal is to grow capacity in communities of color to build permanent affordable cultural spaces. It seeks to extend the "onramp" to commercial real estate development further into cultural communities.

Community Vision provides nonprofits, small businesses, and social enterprises in California with strategic investment and guidance to deepen work, scale impact, and strengthen communities.

CSA is a body of artists and cultural workers that act as representatives of their respective work and the arts sector. They work towards creating and preserving space in Oakland. The program creates peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing on new operating and space preservation models.

The office provides direct support and advocacy for creative businesses, cultural organizations, and community groups. It aims to move at-risk cultural and creative spaces from immediate threat to long-term sustainability.

  • Model: Require reporting of cultural and creative sector impact of development projects.

Establish processes for capturing impact and mitigation strategies related to arts and culture. This is often done for environment and transportation in the Development Review process.

This is an interactive mapping tool that catalogues cultural space in Seattle. The goal is to count every square foot of every cultural space in the city and cross reference with demographic data.

This map brings together cultural space research and information that has not existed in one place. It plots the location of a wide range of cultural spaces. Users can view it alongside useful data like transport networks and population growth.

Defining key terms

Cultural space

Cultural space includes spaces to make work, such as:

  • artist studios
  • rehearsal spaces
  • fabrication spaces
  • recording spaces
  • fashion studios
  • photography studios, and
  • film facilities.

It also includes spaces to present work, such as:

  • live music venues
  • performance spaces
  • gallery spaces
  • event spaces, and
  • gathering spaces that host cultural events.

Artist work-live housing is another form of cultural space.


Placekeeping is an effort to sustain and nurture a community and its physical and social environment. This is done for the benefit of residents and local businesses.

Placekeeping focuses on the social fabric, traditions, and norms. These things are often overlooked by and invisible to outsiders.

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