Arts integration brings added value to development

Posted by Mr. John T. Paradiso, Dec 10, 2019 0 comments

When I moved to Brentwood, Maryland in 2004, I had no idea it was an arts district. As it turned out, the Gateway Arts District is a two-mile stretch of US Route 1 starting on the border of Washington, DC into Maryland, running through four municipalities (Mount Rainier, Brentwood, North Brentwood, and Hyattsville). 

Long before I moved here, a group of folks including local artists, community leaders, and elected officials came together to create a vision for future development along Route 1. They knew that these working-class neighborhoods, although overlooked by developers at that time, would someday be appealing.

2014 Gateway Arts District Map

For years the story has only been, “Artists move into a neighborhood and make it attractive, and then the developers come in and move the artists out.” But because of the high concentration of artists located in these neighborhoods for years, the community put its energy towards cultivating “arts-driven economic development” to attract developers that would embrace the artistic community and keep what was so attractive: the arts itself.

Thanks to that planning, we have seen some successful development projects in the arts district that have been wins for artists, developers, and the broader community. One recent project is the new mixed-use apartment complex Studio 3807. I am lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of this project working with Landex Development and in particular CEO Peter Siegel. 

Building Façade of Studio 3807, with sculpture by Valerie Theberge.

I met Peter several years ago when his company was looking for development opportunities in the area. At the time I was working at the Gateway Community Development Corporation managing the 39th Street Gallery and their Visual Art Studios. I first met Judy Siegel, Peter’s mom and partner at the time, and took her on a tour through the Gateway Arts Center, all the while telling her the story of the community and its vision. The Gateway Arts Center was located right next door to a dilapidated property owned by the Prince George’s County Redevelopment Authority (RDA).

Peter showed up shortly after that tour with a growing interest in our community and the RDA-owned property. Landex submitted the only plan that included an arts component. Through a series of public charrettes and community input, Landex was awarded the opportunity to purchase the property. 

After the award and throughout the development planning phase, Peter actively attended events in the Arts District. From artist receptions to studio tours, you name it, he was there. I think this is how he became a part of the community even before the building broke ground.

Main lobby of Studio 3807. Mural by artist Jay Coleman.

At a crowded artist reception at the 39th Street Gallery, Peter said, “I want to have what’s happening here happen in Studio 3807.” I was excited to hear his enthusiasm. It’s exactly what the early arts district visionaries had hoped for: a developer who would get excited about the arts, excited about adding to the community, with a long-term commitment to both.

As a local artist and an actual neighbor, I was asked by Landex to participate in designing the visual art component for Studio 3807. Landex had allotted 3,000 square feet of space for five visual arts studios and a gallery. I was able to work with the contractors and participate in construction meetings, keeping an eye on the details needed for integrating the arts into the building. The development team appreciated an artist’s input as they had little experience creating visual art studios.

Blueprint for Portico Gallery and Studios.

Landex was committed to staying connected to the art community and hired me to identify and acquire original artworks for the building. I worked directly with the interior designers and the developer throughout this process. The goal was to purchase work from artists with direct links to the Arts District. We purchased more than $100,000 of original art for Studio 3807, including four painted murals, two photo murals, three sculptures, three wall assemblages, six paintings, and a new bus shelter.

I then created a proposal with a business narrative and a budget to manage all the visual art components in Studio 3807. This became the Portico Gallery and Studios. As a contract employee, I became the on-site resident artist/curator. 

Portico Gallery

Portico’s mission is to be a resource for artists and the community by providing quality programming. This starts by acknowledging that artists have value, and then by valuing the artists. All of our visual arts programs are fully funded by Studio 3807 and are considered an amenity to the building. Our programming is building-wide and includes:

  • Five fully functioning visual arts studios that have been designed with high attention to detail and the practical needs of professional studio artists, renting at below-market rates. 
  • Six gallery exhibitions that include artist receptions with ample refreshments. The gallery has a 15/85 split on sales, with 85% going to the artist.
  • A Residential Exhibition Program which has four rotating exhibitions per year on three prominent well-lit walls within the Studio 3807 community space. A modest honorarium of $300 is provided per exhibition. 
  • Four artist talks per year in the residential lounge within Studio 3807. Artist talks are open to residents of the building and the community at large. A modest honorarium of $300 is provided per artist talk.

Visual arts studio #5

Portico and Studio 3807 have had a very successful first year. This kind of built-in arts programming keeps a building fresh with new things happening all the time. Many residents have started attending our artist receptions and talks. I expect Portico to continue to be an engaging experience for all and to draw new audiences for years to come.

Studio 3807 is a good example of how the more actively engaged a community is with its vision, the easier it is for developers to see the vision and become active participants as well. 

Interesting in learning more? Join our mailing list and come out to our events—all are welcome! 

To learn more about Studio 3807, tune in to our Arts and Housing webinar on ArtsU Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET. Register now to attend live or for on-demand access later.

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