Photos by Hawk Buckman
One of the stops on the Loveland Art Tour is this unique community, a campus that includes the historic Feed & Grain building, where artists are provided housing and studio space. Residents include writers, painters, sculptors and a concert pianist.
“You think you’re secure, but when you get sick that all changes,” begins Suzi Holland, a mixed media artist living and working at Artspace Loveland. Holland worked as an interior designer for Ethan Allen, until a breast cancer diagnosis.
The illness sent her life into a tailspin.
“It starts with a physical problem,” continues Holland. “You can’t get back to work and so lose your job, then medical insurance goes. I had six surgeries in all and was too sick to look for new work. I lost my home, so was pretty much homeless, bouncing from one family member after another. I’d been living in Nicaragua for seven months, teaching art, when the call came that my name was up for an apartment at Artspace Loveland.”
The community is a project spearheaded by the Loveland Housing Authority in collaboration with the developer, Artspace, which manages similar projects around the country. Interested artists are asked to submit an application to the housing authority. They must pass credit and background checks and show proof they are an “income-qualifying” artist, meaning they are artists earning less than 60 percent of area median income for Larimer County.
Rental rates are based on income and range from $328 to $1020 per month (according to information posted online December 2014).
Having artists living and working in proximity with another enables collaborations.
Holland partnered with resident manager Mary Connole in September for a Night on the Town exhibit titled, “Aftermath.” The event was designed to address suffering. Connole’s brother was murdered several years previously.
Connole asks, “What do we do after we experience trauma? How do we get whole again and begin to see the sun and light? It’s about awareness and loss.”
Their new digs have helped both women heal.
“Having been here from the beginning, it’s exciting meeting other artists and living in a dorm-like environment,” says Holland. “It’s certainly not about getting wealthy but building relationships with neighbors who all have a common thread. We love art and are broke,” she laughs. “Our exhibits are meant to enhance the community.”
The majority of residents continue to work outside jobs. Some are single, others have families with children.
Holland’s private studio allows her focused time to pursue her art and writing.
“I get up early to journal about what my intentions are for today,” says Holland.
She writes at least four to six hours daily working on novels and a memoir.
The Artspace Loveland project is a double-pronged approach celebrating Northern Colorado’s penchant for refurbishing. Artspace Loveland Lofts house 30 new units. Next door, the transformation of the historic Feed & Grain building into a commercial arts hub is the epitome of turning old into new.
The two campus buildings have been revitalized from a neglected downtown city block into a lively community asset. Affordable housing for artists is woven together with creative programs and entrepreneurship, building upon Loveland’s rich history and cultural arts heritage.
Teaming up with the city of Loveland and other community partners, this venture is one of many enterprises operated by Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer for the arts.
With the belief that creating a collective space for artists will act as a catalyst for continued city rejuvenation, Artspace Loveland brings vibrant activity to an otherwise forgotten and listless tract. The structures have evolved from eyesore to abstract beauty, peopled with inspired and imaginative visionaries.
The property includes a community exhibit and event space, computer lab, laundry room and outdoor courtyard. The apartments offer large open floor plans, 10-foot ceilings and large windows and doors. They are spartan, but clean. One visitor likened them to Army barracks.
“Artspace works with communities that have invited us,” says Lucas Koski, asset manager for the developer. “We don’t seek them out, but once they contact us, there is a feasibility process to be followed. We look for whether there’s a site that will work well, along with impetus. Is there a lot of local interest? In this case, there was a desire to save the Feed & Grain building as well as create an artistic campus.”
Loveland, found to be a good fit for this program, opened the lofts in 2015.
“Our work in Loveland, from our perspective, has been successful,” says Koski. “The apartments are always full, with a waiting list. In addition, we saw a need and so we built the Artworks Studio, which consists of 18 studios.”
“We came into Loveland trying to figure out how to stabilize the Feed & Grain, which we have done,” says Koski, in essence restoring a structure which has been standing for over 100 years. The antiquated mill has taken on a new life.
Yet this story is not all about what has been, but about what is yet to become. The future is bright, for both the program in general, and Loveland specifically.
“Artspace does projects all around the country,” says Koski. “We are partners with Loveland Housing Authority and are committed to providing affordable housing in perpetuity.”
Lynette Chilcoat is a freelance writer based in Loveland. To comment on this article, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org