Warehouse Arts District Editorialby David Aguirre on Feb. 07, 2010, under arts
What does it take to run an art center?
I’ve been in the arts district for about 23 years doing what I think is right for artists, artist groups, organizing artistic events. There are changes happening in the Warehouse Arts District. ADOT has begun to sell off properties no longer needed for transportation purposes. Many of these properties have been used for arts purposes for a long time.
But change is coming.
Steven Eye, over at Solar Culture on Toole, has a new landlord. Steven is facing a different economic reality after all these years. I hope he can continue to bring music, art, and wisdom to the district. Dwight Metzger, at The Gloo Factory, has been fearlessly fund raising with some success to either stay in his ADOT building or find another place to exercise his group’s creativity. There are others facing change, too.
I lease the Citizens Warehouse on Sixth Street from ADOT. There are actually two buildings there housing nearly 40 artist studios plus BICAS in the 6000sq/ft basement. My role is to collect rates from the artists, ensure the rent for the building is paid, utility bills are paid, look after maintenance, and navigate other issues. Next month, we hope to be able to hang artwork on the corridor walls in a major way, and for the first time, have regular gallery hours, offering artists a chance to sell their works without having to go through the commercial gallery paradigm. It’s exciting, but we need to have better security for the building to make it work.
I’ve known changes were coming to the warehouse district for some time, and have been creating a financially sustainable model for the Citizens Warehouse Art Studios.
An Arizona Daily Star writer wrote recently that I tried to evict BICAS from their basement space last year. Not true. Not at all true. Since the time that the hard copy article was delivered to people’s homes, and apparently in response to this article, the writer may have changed his online installment to get closer to the truth, although his numbers are still off.
Look. I believe everyone needs a break to gain some momentum with their endeavors. I’ve helped BICAS(Bootstraps to Share) almost since their inception providing either free or low overhead space so that they can do good things for the community. Sliding scale. Their annual IRS report stated that they had over $100,000 in cash in the bank, even though their accountant was quoted in the Tucson Weekly, shortly after their filing, as having $26,000 in the bank. Whichever. If you become more successful, you should be more responsible by paying a bit more so there is less struggle to pay the bills for the building, more repairs can be made, and overall prices for artist studios can stay down.
It’s fair and it makes business sense. BICAS sounded the alarm that I was trying to evict them. What? Where did that come from? I didn’t want them to go anywhere, plus it wasn’t realistic thinking that moving their facility was an option. I believe they acted irresponsibly by sounding such an alarm taking advantage of the good will of bike enthusiasts against me.
I was unsuccessful. ADOT, at BICAS’s invitation, got into the equation, taking the ex-husband role, reprimanding me(good ol’ mom) for being too hard on the teens, and then dictating BICAS’s monthly rate, in fact, lowering it. I still had to act responsibly and pay the bills.
I took a slapping. That was last summer. I hadn’t really put my side out there until now. So, that’s that.
I created artist space in the building filled with contributing member artists. They have jobs and come to their studios when they can. I want artists and BICAS to remain and grow and I want all of us to be happy together at the Citizens Warehouse. But we have skirmishes from time to time. We’re interested in security. BICAS lets at-risk youth and homeless clients wonder around the inside of the building. Things get stolen, broken, or damaged on occasion. I hate those markers that kids use to mark up the walls and studio doors. I suppose it’s better than using spray paint. But these are things that responsible people should be able to work out, right? Yet, this is an ongoing topic of concern. One solution is get BICAS to install a Port-a-Potty in the fenced yard so that BICAS clients won’t need to enter the main floor to go to the bathroom. They have a LOT (a lot) of clients that impact the property 6 days a week in a number of ways some of which I’ve mentioned. A product of their success. I’m glad for their success. I’d also be glad to have a more secure building with less negative impacts and less attitude.
I’m not asking anyone to take sides on an issue since that’s not right among friends. But I wanted to clear the air, lay out the facts, where the Arizona Daily Star has not.
In a world with angry teabaggers running around, reasonable people can agree or disagree, but hopefully they can talk to each other, find common ground, make changes, and thrive.
I’m determined to navigate changes in the Warehouse Arts District, provide or create permanent sites for artists,(and BICAS) which are financially responsible, sustainable, and innovative. With that we can create something cool together.