Case Study: Western Avenue Studios

Justin Mandelbaum co-founded Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, Massachusetts. The once vacant mill building complex is now home to the largest artist community on the East Coast. With 250 studios, 50 live/work lofts and over 300 artists, it covers 250,000 square feet. [photos]

Western Avenue Studios was established in 2005 and has helped spur Lowell’s sustained resurgence as a place for art and culture to thrive. It serves as a model for other cities seeking successful examples of how supporting the arts leads to economic prosperity for communities.

The complex also includes a gallery, a music rehearsal and recording studio, event space and cafe. Programming includes monthly open studio events, summer arts classes for children, after school programs for high school students, and fundraising for HIV/AIDS patients.

Mainframe Studios is a project of similar scale for Des Moines without a residential component.

Local Demand Study

A demand study was conducted that described our non-profit mission of creating “permanent affordable space for the local arts,” and provided sample floor plans and pricing. Surveys were tailored for artists, arts organizations and community supporters.

Survey responses and comments were collected from:

  • 424 Artists
  • 27 Arts Organizations
  • 359 Community Supporters

Resulting information from artists includes:

  • Clear demand by a broad variety of disciplines, such as shared theater rehearsal space and ceramics area, individual visual artists and craftspeople, video production, photography and music professionals, among others
  • Majority were currently working out of their home
  • 93% interested in participating in a monthly open studio event
  • 85% interested in display their work in a gallery
  • Likely work times were evenly distributed through out days, evenings and weekends

The study demonstrated that Des Moines has a robust artist community and there is a strong demand for permanent affordable workspace.

Leave a Reply