Create Space 

Memphis artists have a new Downtown home.

In her fourth-floor loft near South Main, April Jones sings as loud and as often as she wants, and her neighbors don't mind.

That's because Jones, a musician and painter, recently moved into the South Main Artspace Lofts, a newly built Downtown residence tailor-made for artists and their families.

The lofts were developed by Artspace Projects, Inc, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate developer that specializes in creating affordable spaces for artists and creative businesses. The group transformed the former United Warehouse and an adjacent parking lot into a 63-loft apartment complex for artists to live and work.

For Jones, Artspace has been an "answered prayer." Living situations for artists in Memphis can be challenging, she said. In the past, Jones said she struggled to find a place to live while pursuing her artwork and went through bouts of homelessness as a result. But now, she said she's found a place to live that's "conducive to my talent."

click to enlarge ArtSpace resident April Jones - MAYA SMITH
  • Maya Smith
  • ArtSpace resident April Jones

"I don't have to worry about being embarrassed to do my work," Jones said. "There's other people around you doing the same thing. The first three questions someone asked me here are always 'What's your name, which floor do you live on, and what's your art?'"

Kimberly Moore, asset manager for Artspace, said residents' artforms can vary and be anything from painting and sculpting, to photography and animation, to culinary arts and playwriting.

"A singer could be next door to a dancer who could live next to a jeweler," Moore said. "They all build off of each other's creative energy and are expected to support each other."

To live on the "creative campus," Moore said residents must go through a three-step application process that can be "intensive, but worth it."

The final step, an interview with a committee of local artists, is the most important piece of the process, Moore said. Applicants must demonstrate their art form before the committee, in order to "ensure the property maintains its creative character."

The applicants aren't judged on the quality of their art, though, Moore said. Instead, the committee is looking for passionate artists who are committed to their work and willing to be engaged in the larger art community.

The goal of the project is not only to give artists a place to live, Moore said, but to also provide housing that's affordable. Prices for the units (studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom) are based on income and range from about $500 to $800 a month.

Each loft also includes about 150 more square feet than a comparable affordable housing unit to make room for artists to have a working nook, Moore said. The complex also includes an outdoor plaza, community rooms, and studios for workshops, performances, and exhibitions.

Though 60 percent of the units are already full, construction is still wrapping up on the two-building complex. Full renovation of the former warehouse isn't slated to be completed until the end of June, and the official Artspace Lofts grand opening is set for Thursday, November 8th.

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