22 November 2006

SAVING WAREHOUSE AS ART SPACE

Thanks to all of you who have commented , emailed, written, and called offering encouragement and support after my last post about eviction notices to Chax Press and artists in two Tucson warehouses. Thanks to Ron Silliman for making a link to this blog, which I just found out about a few minutes ago when I noticed the blog was getting about four times the usual traffic, a good deal of it coming from Ron's blog.

This post will be a bit more technical, but I wanted to update you on what's going on.

WAMO (Warehouse Arts Management Organization) Executive Committee (I'm the president) along with concerned friends forming a sort of ever-shifting task force, met two days ago, in advance of a meeting today with a city council member and staff from other city council members' offices. We came up with the following list of requests, and handed them a page as follows.

The WAMO Executive Committee, along with concerned artists and friends of the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District, recommend that the following steps be taken in response to the State of Arizona Department of Transportation’s recent eviction order for warehouses.

· WAMO and the City of Tucson, with funds from the city's account that grows from accumulated rents in the warehouse arts district, will contract a consultant, preferably Art Space, Inc., to develop a plan and funding mechanism that will move the Master Plan forward and allow artists to gain equity/ownership in warehouses, including Steinfeld, Zee's, and Dwight Metzger's workspace, and that will fund necessary repairs to the buildings to allow for continued occupation that satisfies City and ADOT concerns for issues that might be considered liability risks.

· WAMO and The City of Tucson will contract a structural engineer to evaluate the Steinfeld Warehouse and Zee's, and possibly other buildings in the district, to determine whether it is safe for tenants to remain in these buildings while necessary repairs are conducted.

· Tucson Department of Transportation will conduct a survey of the square footage of space in the buildings of those who have received, or will receive, eviction notices, and will evaluate the kinds of space those artists presently occupy, and develop a complete relocation plan that offers artists spaces at least equal in size and functionality to the spaces they now occupy, at rental rates equal to what those artists now pay, with the City of Tucson funding all relocation expenses for those artists. TDOT will offer a comprehensive relocation plan for all effected artists, with the plan's components being individualized plans for each separate artist or arts organization. Present building tenants or groups of artists that wish to remain together will be allowed to do so if at all possible.

· WAMO and the Steinfeld Committee (suggested name for the committee moving ahead to address these issues) request a meeting with the responsible decision-makers at ADOT who are concerned with the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District buildings. We may bring all representatives we choose to such a meeting.

· All consultant reports and surveys should be fully completed before anyone is evicted from any building in the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District.

The response today was encouraging. First, we received, from the state (our landlord) a 2-month extension on the eviction notices, which isn't a lot, but it helps. More importantly, we received, from the city, a much stronger sense than we've had previously of support for the points above, and for our joint development of a plan that we hope won't require any evictions at all. In a couple of conversations with a member of the Governor of Arizona's staff, I also had the sense today that people are listening to the artists in the community. We're far from sitting in a comfort zone at this time, but I have a much more positive sense of possibility than I had several days ago. Part of this positive sense comes from the support received from so many people.

Also, today, sitting in a city council member's office, I was pretty overwhelmed just thinking about the extraordinary people around me who are helping with this issue. Many of them are the artists directly effected, others are artists in the community around us, others are community activists, leaders of social programs, etc. Among them, painters whose work has hung in collections from Paris to Hawaii, founders of national award-winning youth art programs, leaders of an independent community radio station, woodworkers who make some of the most amazing furniture I have ever seen (and that sits in the most prestigious homes & buildings in the region), founders of the annual All Souls Day Parade (I wrote about that a few posts ago on this blog), the chairperson of the local/regional arts council, and several others who all bring their intensity, resourcefulness, creativity, and intelligence to the current situation. No matter what happens, I feel priveleged to be a part of the community working to save these warehouses as art spaces, hopefully with no evictions to come.

3 Comments:

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

My thoughts are with you, Charles. Please let me know if there is anything I can do e.g., letters, emails, phonecalls, etc.

 
At 10:22 PM, Blogger charles said...

Thanks, Jordan. For now, not a lot to do. But I just posted about a local poll. It would be nice if that poll showed overwhelming support for artists downtown.

 
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