Spotlight On: Heidi Kurtze, director of property development, Artspace — Minneapolis

Heidi Kurtze is a director at the Minneapolis firm Artspace, whose mission is to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations.

Inkandescent Networking sat down with her talk about the company’s mission, goals and upcoming projects.

Inkandescent Networking: Tell us more about how you pursue your mission and goals.

Heidi Kurtze: We develop projects, asset-management activities, consulting services and community-building activities that serve artists and arts organizations of all disciplines, cultures and economic circumstances. In doing so, we are able to support the continued professional growth of artists, and enhances the cultural and economic vitality of the surrounding community.

Inkandescent Networking: You have been in business since 1979. What inspired the founders to start the firm?

Heidi: As you can imagine, finding and retaining affordable live/work space is an age-old problem for artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, and others who require an abundance of well-lit space in which to work. Many artists gravitate to old warehouses and other industrial buildings, but their very presence in an industrial neighborhood often acts as a catalyst, setting in motion a process of gentrification that drives up rents and forces the artists out.

This is precisely what happened in Minneapolis’ historic Warehouse District in the 1970s, and led to the creation of Artspace in 1979. Established to serve as an advocate for artists’ space needs, Artspace effectively fulfilled that mission for nearly a decade. By the mid-1980s, however, it was clear that the problem required a more proactive approach, and Artspace made the leap from advocate to developer. Since then, the scope of Artspace’s activities has grown dramatically.

We are proud to say that Artspace is now America’s leading nonprofit real estate developer for the arts. In the last few years, Artspace has further expanded its mission to incorporate the planning and development of performing arts centers, other arts facilities, and entire arts districts throughout the country.

Inkandescent Networking: Tell us a little more about what the Brookland Artspace Lofts in D.C. will feature.

Heidi: It will have open interiors, underground parking, performance areas, wide hallways and large elevators so the artists can easily transport their artwork around the building. It will also feature a mosaic tile installation that will be provided by community volunteers, and a “green” roof that will be installed as a community service project.

Inkandescent Networking: I know that you worked closely with the D.C. government to make this project happen.

Heidi: That’s right. Discussions about the project began in 2006, when the leaders of Artspace worked with the D.C. Department of Housing and Development, then subsequently with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (pictured right).

The government had developed a policy that would direct D.C. agencies to work together to create and fund art projects that act as an effective tool for economic revitalization. The Brookland Artspace Lofts are a result of that initiative.

Inkandescent Networking: I understand that the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding. Is that correct?

Heidi: Yes, and that includes $1 million in low-income-housing tax credits for the role Artspace is playing in revitalizing the Brookland neighborhood.

The goal of the project is to create affordable units where artists and their families can live and work. So all of the units will be available to households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Inkandescent Networking: Tell us more about what you are doing with the modern dance and arts education organization, Dance Place.

Heidi: As soon as construction begins, Artspace will support Dance Place in its effort to renovate its existing theater space, which is located next door at 3225 8th Street, N.E., and create an outdoor plaza and performance area between the two buildings.

Inkandescent Networking: We’ll be breaking ground this month, and the official groundbreaking is on April 9, with a completion date of July 2011.

Heidi: We’re so happy that the project is finally beginning! It will take about 14 months to complete, and will be a terrific addition to the neighborhood that is undergoing revitalization efforts.

Inkandescent Networking: Thanks so much for your time, Heidi. We’ll look forward to writing more about the project as it unfolds.

For more information, visit www.artspace.org.

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