About Mainframe Studios

MISSION // Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Mainframe Studios is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing permanent, affordable workspaces for artists of all disciplines.

VISION // We are transforming Central Iowa’s art scene by creating a financially self-sustaining economic and cultural driver, serving as a national model that stands the test of time.


As an organization and a community of artists, Mainframe Studios fully supports anti-racist activism. We vow to purposefully identify, discuss, and challenge issues of race and the impact(s) they have on our organization, its systems, and the artists who work here. We are in full support of individual expression and critical thinking and believe that creative ideas can best be realized in spaces where anti-oppressive policies are nurtured. We vow that our events will be safe for all bodies and respectful of difference. We vow to strengthen one another through collective action, shared information, and mutual support.

Read our full statement (PDF) | Track our #blmprogress in our blog

Supporting a Vision

Mainframe Studios was formed by Justin and John Mandelbaum, principals at Mandelbaum Properties. Mandelbaum Properties is a Des Moines based family-owned real estate investment, development and property management firm. The Mandelbaums are donating their time and services, in addition to funds, and will not profit from Mainframe Studios.

Initial fundraising is essential for purchasing and renovating the Mainframe Studios location at 900 Keosauqua Way. Rents are priced to cover operating expenses and a reserve fund, with remaining operating income to fund an endowment. Once the building is fully operational, our nonprofit is designed to be financially self-sustaining, allowing Mainframe Studios to stand the test of time and ensuring that creative professionals have a place in the heart of our city for generations to come. 

Mainframe Studio’s full-time staff includes Executive Director, Siobhan Spain. Through Siobhan’s leadership and passion for the arts and culture scene in Des Moines, Mainframe Studios’ vision will continue to come to life. Siobhan drives the day-to-day operations of this nonprofit, engaging with local artists and finding ways to make Mainframe Studios their home.


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.

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.

Local Demand Study

A demand study was conducted that described our nonprofit 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 throughout 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.