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Surrounded by a few barren trees and the stubble of brown grass 
patches, a small boy is seen playing alone in an urban park. He laughs, 
runs, turns somersaults, contentedly absorbed in the private world to 
which he has been transported by the faster-than-light vehicle of 

The boy sees a place filled with lush green foliage, including a 
huge grass carpet on which he can trip the light fantastic. He hears a 
symphony of sounds: flutes, drums and scampering animals. From the 
desolation of the park, the child has created an enchanted forest where 
he can spend hours enjoying the warmth of a brilliant sun which may 
shine only in his mind. 

The effortless ability to transform spaces into whatever one 
envisions and projects on his mental screen is a unique province of 
childhood. But this innate imaginative talent is usually suppressed as 
the child acquires cognitive skills— the three R's and their 
extensions— designed to prepare him for participation in an increasingly 
technological society. No more flights of fancy; he is now grounded by a 
very literal perception of the world around him. 

Sadly, the adult's ability to deal imaginatively with his 
environment is often permanently impaired by the limitations of 
societal conditioning. As the level of sophistication increases, the 
capacity to look beyond the surface into the potential for innovation 
seems to be diminished even further. 

But the unsophisticated child is constantly redesigning his 
surroundings to fit a particular need or desire, for example: a tree and a 
few boards become a treehouse; a discarded crate and ball-bearing 
wheels become a skatemobile; an old rubber tire becomes a 
one-passenger sedan for sidewalk travel or, roped to a sturdy branch, 
doubles as a backyard swing. 

When the inadequacy of space is an endemic factor in his 
environment, the creative instincts of a child are even more expansive. 
Witness the inventiveness seen in a Chicago ghetto as a young would-be 
Kareem shoots into a basketball goal formed by the arms of a friend. 

Uninhibited by the shackles of what is, an active imagination 
explores freely the possibilities of what can be and then proceeds to 
transform them into a more functional reality. 





Evaluate Your Project 

Decision Making Analysis 

Get A Head Start— Foresight 
An Advantage 


Expert Advice 

Building And Zoning Codes 
Renovation: Remember Your Needs 
Decorating Your New Home 
Are You Easily Found? 










The dynamic relationship between imagination and space, which 
has been examined from the perspective of a child, is the special focus 
of this primer. From the beautiful fantasy of an enchanted forest to a 
uniquely improvised inner-city basketball court, we have seen that 
children adeptly use imaginative skill to transform environmental 
spaces— mentally or physically— according to their own specifications. 

We will now explore the translation of this concept, as well as 
essential technical considerations, into a useful reference for those 
involved in recycling spaces for arts use. While the information which 
will be presented is universally applicable, it is directed particularly to 
the constituency served by the Expansion Arts Program of the National 
Endowment for the arts— i.e., neighborhood-based arts programs in 
urban, suburban and rural communities across the nation. 

Because of prevailing misconceptions about community arts, 
however, it will be helpful to define further the nature of the target 
constituency. The establishment of the Expansion Arts Program in 
1971 reflected the Endowment's recognition and support, through 
matching grants, of programs which allow a broad cross-section of 
Americans to participate in creative expression. In essence, they are 
people arts programs which were literally born out of the diverse 
cultural traditions of neighborhoods, communities and regions long 
isolated from the established centers of mainstream culture in this 

During the last decade the growth of indigenous arts 
programs— impressive by any standards— has profoundly altered the 
national cultural landscape. Their vitality cannot be attributed merely 
to the influx of federal support, for the percentage of those funded is 
proportionately small. Rather, the key factor behind this development 
has been the collective desire of a group of people to express artistically 
a common cultural or regional heritage. 

A kaleidoscopic view of the so-called grass-roots-arts movement 
is presented in an exciting film produced by the Expansion Arts 
Program titled "A Coat of Many Colors." While surveying the spectrum 
of Expansion Arts-supported programs and regional festivals from coast 
to coast, the film highlights the diversity of the communities involved 
and the often ingenious ways in which they have made their projects 

Similarly, the objective of this primer is to distill pertinent data 
from the experiences of those groups whose imaginative recycling of 
their spaces can offer realistic, workable, DO-ABLE guidelines for 
others. It is designed specifically to assist community-based 
organizations currently or prospectively planning to acquire facilities in 
which to perform, make or display their art. 

But the guidelines presented here will not consist merely of 
neatly outlined, step-by-step procedures. Through the years organizers 
of community and neighborhood arts programs have learned that the 
rules for dealing with space— if any exist at all— are organic. They take 
shape and form as you confront the individual reality of each potential 
space and actually go through the process of selecting and recycling a 
new home for your project. 

In order to make sound decisions, however, certain practical 
and technical advice is essential. You will find in these pages a collective 
wisdom of specialists in neighborhood arts, as well as organically 
derived information from projects in the field. There is a particular 
emphasis on innovative ways to tap money-saving resources, including 
key people from within the community. 

The underlying theme is IMAGINATION— the kind of creative 
resourcefulness that has historically enabled residents of inner-city and 
rural communities to survive in spite of economic limitations. By 
skillfully recycling clothing, toys, housing and the like, their families' 
needs were always met. A similarly flexible and imaginative approach is 
required to meet the challenge of recycling spaces for neighborhood 
arts use. 

But the use of adaptive space is no longer the exclusive province 
of any one arts constituency. With the current economic decline, a 
national trend toward renovating highly diversified properties for arts 
use has developed. An increasing number of arts organizations, 
including more established groups, are acquiring recently abandoned or 
otherwise available facilities in urban and suburban locations. 
Collectively, they are now called found spaces for the arts. 

It has been observed that artists just might be the most 
successful of all community redevelopers. With limited budgets and 
unlimited imaginations, many arts groups have indeed revitalized their 
neighborhoods— physically, as well as culturally. The secret lies in 
VISION: the ability to explore the possibilities in what might initially 
appear to be the most unlikely spaces or circumstances for artistic 

A skating rink recycled to house a visual arts group and training 
program; a water tower converted into office and administrative space 
for several neighborhood arts groups; an old, unused public library 
renovated to serve as an arts center for children: all examples of an 
imaginative, visionary restructuring of space. Could you have looked at 
one of these buildings and envisioned the arts use to which it has been 

Assessing the potential of an available space, be it an abandoned 
factory or a deserted mansion, poses insurmountable problems for 
many neighborhood arts groups. Thus, it is a good idea to recruit 
specialists— architects, designers, space planners and students— to help 
your group in acquiring and planning the renovation of your new 

Technical professionals can be very valuable members of your 
Advisory Board. They can look at a space with your needs assessment 
in mind and determine how to restructure it to fit the requirements of 
your program. With their advice and help— knock down a wall, lower a 
ceiling, build additional partitions and add the legally required number 
of exists— a space which may have seemed hopelessly inappropriate at 
first can become your ideal new home. 

With the assistance of Rice University architecture and design 
students, a decrepit cinema theatre in Houston became the new 
quarters for three neighborhood cultural groups. A visual arts co-op, a 
theatre group and a dance ensemble share the recycled space, which 
accommodates both their program and administrative space needs. The 
high-ceilinged lobby of the building worked out to be the best possible 
gallery for displaying the large sculptures and monumental paintings 
created by the members of the co-op. Vaudeville houses, old theatres 
and cinemas— many of which are located in redevelopment areas across 
the country— are buildings with tremendous recycling potential. While 
renovation projects on this large a scale are costly, the undertaking can 
be a manageable one for a consortium of arts groups. 

As these examples indicate, the most important point to 
remember when looking to acquire space is considering all your 
options. You are limited, of course, by your budget and by the space 
requirements of your program. Nevertheless, a wide variety of choices 
are open to you. 

Will you buy, lease or rent a space? Would your program be able 
to function within the constraints of a part-time or shared-space 
arrangement? Would exterior, rather than interior space best suit your 
needs and budget? Does it seem advantageous to keep your office and 
exhibit/performance space in the same building or to locate in two 
separate places? Have you considered free or minimal-rent spaces 
available through public resources or has your search been limited to 
commercial sites? 

All across the country, neighborhood arts groups are tackling 
these questions and finding the right answers. Sometimes, their search 
for suitable quarters begins with seeking help from community and 
political leaders. In Baltimore, for example, project directors have 
successfully sensitized the mayor's office and city council to the needs 
of their groups. The time and effort they invested in this undertaking 
has paid off. The city provided an old dairy, located in an urban 
redevelopment area, for rehabilitation as a cultural center. In addition, 
several town houses adjacent to the dairy have been sold to an 
alternative theatre for sums ranging from $1 to $5; after renovation, 
these row homes will serve as office space for arts groups. 

What is the situation in your area? Is the municipal or county 
government aware of your existence? Have you talked with local 
leaders and impressed upon them the positive effects of neighborhood 
arts on community development? If not, you should begin a dialogue 
with them as soon as possible. They can be instrumental in your efforts 
to secure a site for your program. Get them on your side. 


There are many different kinds of spaces which can be had 
through public resources. For example, during the last decade 
changing population trends have left many elementary schools empty 
and obsolete; left deserted, these properties are often vandalized and 
become worthless. Thus, you may find that the authorities will be 
happy to give you the building for cultural and arts uses. Enterprising 
neighborhood arts groups have convinced local officials to set aside 
abandoned fire houses, court houses, libraries, bus barns and railroad 
stations for recycling. In all these cases, an added advantage is that 
public buildings tend to be centrally located and easily accessible to the 

If you look hard enough, you will also find that many churches 
and synagogues have been affected by changing demographic patterns. 
Check it out. You may be able to rent or buy such an empty building, 
whose congregation has moved out of the area, for minimal cost. A 
burned-out synagogue is currently serving as storage space for one arts 
group while they raise funds for its rehabilitation. 

Local universities and colleges may also be in the position to 
allocate some of their unused space for your group's use. For example, 
university officials agreed to let a theatre group convert an obsolete 
boiler house into performance space. The huge, round room proved to 
be a terrifically flexible, highly adaptable structutre with which to 
work. The high ceilings easily accommodated a complex, multi-purpose 
light grid. Rather than building a permanent stage, the group was 
inspired by the space to construct large, movable blocks which they can 
arrange to create a traditional proscenium stage, a theatre-in-the-round 
or some highly unorthodox configuration specifically suited to the 
production they are mounting. 

Performance- and exhibition-oriented groups have also been 
particularly successful in devising schemes for not only housing their 
projects, but also for bringing their programs to their audiences. Jazz 
Mobile, Dance Mobile and Theatre in a Trunk are but three examples of 
imaginative, viable mobile space arrangements. An experimental theatre 
group has equipped a van with collapsible tiers which fold out to create 
an interesting, multi-level stage platform. Museums-on-wheels and 
galleries have been traveling around the country in reconverted trucks, 
vans and old school buses. Would your group benefit more from a 
movable, rather than a fixed, space? 

Or, finally, have you thought about using the outdoors, setting 
up in a park, a field or the woods? During the summer months a 
Chicago group uses the woods outside the city for workshops in wild 
crafts, environmental arts and solar energy projects. In the winter the 
program moves indoors into the schools. However, not only summer 
festivals and projects can take advantage of exterior space, which is 
often free. 


If you are located in a region where the weather is clement for a 
major portion of the year, exterior quarters may be ideal for you. A 
project director in Houston, Texas was working out of a small gallery 
located in the city's redevelopment area. When the city raised the 
surrounding buildings to the ground, she had the idea of using the 
10-square-block area for her project's workshops. Since the demolition 
left the trees in the area intact and* the ground became overgrown with 
grass, the field became a very attractive site for all kinds of crafts 
workshops. All that was involved to set up the outdoor classes was 
putting up saw horses with boards across them for work surfaces. 

As the examples we have described prove, money isn't 
everything. Think of unconventional, as well as pedestrian, prospects. 
Consider sharing space, rent and maintenance costs with other groups. 
If your budget is especially crimped, look into part-time or as-needed 
space arrangements. Find out about free space available within your 
community. Seek help from those who are in the position to assist you 
in finding the perfect answer to your space needs problems. 

As you accept the challenge of dealing with space, approach it 
from a unique perspective of an artist. Remember that the site itself can 
be just as much an act of creation, an expression of art, as the work 
presented within it. 


To Move 

Making the decision to move is 
itself an important first step for all com- 
munity and neighborhood arts projects. 
Whether yours is a new group acquiring 
space for the first time or an established 
group relocating to larger or more suitable 
quarters, it is always wise to have a basic 
knowledge of your project's needs and 
available resources before going out to look 
for space. 

A word of caution: if a realistic 
preliminary evaluation reveals that a move 
would be unwise or premature, then don't 
move. Unless there are unavoidable pres- 
sures, be patient; wait until you're ready or 
concentrate on improving your present 
space. Besides the waste of time, effort and 
money, an unsuccessful attempt at reloca- 
tion may permanently disrupt the 
operation of your program. 

Special circumstances, such as the 
gift of a space, can often prompt hasty, 
ill-considered decisions. No matter how 
tempting the availability of a free space 
might seem, it could present problems that 
far outweigh its usefulness: for example, 
prohibitively high renovation costs to 
accommodate the operation of your 
program. Again, the best advice in this case 
would be to stay where you are. 

On the other hand, you must avoid 
an overly cautious approach toward finding 
a new space. Those good reasons for not 
relocating could be just plain fear or 
inertia. Strike a happy medium. If your 
program has outgrown its present quarters 
or was temporarily housed to begin with, 
then you know that the move is inevitable. 
Remember: nothing ventured, nothing 

Once the decision to move has been 
made, however, it should not be taken 
lightly. It certainly isn't just another fun 
thing for a spirited arts group to do. Many 
weeks of hard work lie ahead: needs assess- 
ments, planning, budgeting, looking, 
comparing, negotiating and, then acquiring 
a space and making it work. 

But the process really isn't as 
formidable as it may sound at this point. 
Read on. 


It cannot be overemphasized that 
the specific circumstances encountered in 
your project will ultimately determine the 
procedure to be followed in acquiring 
space. There are far too many variables in 
the spectrum of neighborhood arts pro- 
grams to offer a precise model or to deal 
with absolutes on any level. As a point of 
departure, however, there are some basic 
factors concerning the project which you 
should consider at the outset: 

1) Art discipline or disciplines to 
be housed: include auxiliary space needs. 

2) Size, structure and leadership of 
the project: assess organizational stability. 

3) Available and projected 
operating funds: make a projected or 
working budget. 

4) Target constituency and group's 
relationship to neighborhood or com- 
munity: anticipate services and level of 

Its Focus 

The wide range of possibilities are 
readily apparent. Is yours a single- or multi- 
disciplined program? Do you need studios 
for training in acting, dance, music, paint- 
ing, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design, 
photography, television or film? Galleries 
to exhibit works of art? Workshop space for 
crafts? Or complete facilities for theatre 
production? The present and anticipated 
content of your program is a major factor 
in planning for space. 

You will also have to consider other 
key space needs, such as rooms for adminis- 
trative and clerical offices, storage, lockers, 
bathrooms, dressing rooms and other 
auxiliary space indicated by the nature of 
your program. 

The kinds of people to be served in 
the program/space will affect your deci- 
sion. Will the participants include children, 
youth, adults, senior citizens, handicapped 


persons? What specialized adjustments, if 
any, will have to be made to accommodate 

Its Organization 

A realistic assessment of the organi- 
zational status of your project is essential. 
Because the acquisition of space commits a 
group to varying degrees of contractual 
liability, you will need to make sure that 
the leadership and structural roles, scope of 
operation and legal situation of the project 
are clearly defined and understood by all. 

An unstable organization is clearly 
not ready to take on the responsibility of a 
new space. 

Its Funding 

The bottom line consideration is, of 
course, the financial status of your 
project— its available and projected funding 
sources. The simplest method of determin- 
ing where you stand is to prepare a 
preliminary or working budget. With these 
figures on paper, you can see just how close 
what you want in a space comes to what 
you can reasonably afford. 

Understandably, the formulation of 
such a budget will be more difficult for a 
new program than for an established one. 
Without the advantage of previous financial 
records on which to depend for figures, the 
new group must take special care to make 
realistic projections and take a more 
conservative approach. You could proceed 
in this manner: 

1) Place in one column your actual 
or carefully estimated income— from 
admissions, subsidies, grants, in-kind 
services, fees, benefits, fund-raising drives, 
rentals, etc. 

2) Place in the other column, as 
accurately as possible, your actual or 
estimated costs for salaries, operating 
expenses, equipment, overhead, 
maintenance, miscellaneous expenses, 
contingencies and, if presently in opera- 
tion, your rent or interest costs. 

3) Calculate the difference 
between the amounts in the income and 
outgo columns. 

The figure thus obtained should give 
you a reasonable estimate of how much or 
how much more, if any, than your present 
rent you can afford to spend on space. It 


will also indicate approximately how much 
additional funding you will need. 

Armed with this information you 
might be persuaded to lessen the initial 
financial burden by phasing your projected 
development. This can be done-according 
to an established system of priorities within 
your total space needs. It is unwise, how- 
ever, to omit or postpone any expenditure 
for major building code requirements 
(which will be discussed in section two) in 
your initial planning, regardless of how 
limited the group's budget might be. 

But don't become unduly alarmed 
by a seemingly bleak financial picture. 
Again, there are no absolutes. Community 
arts history is filled with cases of groups 
who practically ignored, or learned to work 
around the bottom line and yet were able 
not only to survive, but to thrive. 

In fact, some feel that guts and 
imagination may be even more important 
than cost accounting. Of course, it is 
always helpful and essential, when dealing 
with funding sources to know where you 
are in terms of dollars and cents. 

Prepare a preliminary or 
working budget. 

Its Community Ties 

The last preliminary consideration, 
but certainly one of paramount impor- 
tance, is the project's relationship to the 
community. In this context, and to the 
Expansion Arts constituency, the com- 
munity is defined as basically the neighbor- 
hood where creative participation takes 

By extension, the community 
might also be the total ethnic population in 
an area, A project established on the basis 
of artistic expression reflecting a common 
cultural or regional heritage, especially in 
more remote areas, would be expected to 
serve all area residents who share this 

In either case, space needs should 
be appropriately projected. Keep in mind 
that planning to involve neighborhood 
residents or the larger ethnic community to 
the greatest extent possible is not just good 
public relations, A cordial relationship 
between people and your program could 
yield a potential reservoir of talent, 
creativity and overall substantive support in 
the recycling process. 

Although specialized arts training 
programs as opposed to cultural centers 
and similar projects will involve only a 
relatively few members of the community 
directly, outreach is still important. A 
reciprocal relationship exists in terms of 
potential audiences for your public 

Where feasible, planning for the use 
of project space should also identify areas 
that could be made available to the 
community for social and civic gatherings, 
meetings and other needs as they develop. 
We will see later that an attractively 
recycled space can generate additional 
income through selected community 

The message here is simply to avoid 
isolation. No arts program should exist in a 
vacuum. For any project which dares to 
call itself a community or neighborhood 
arts program to attempt to do so would be 
the kiss-of-death. 



After making the four point evalua- 
tion, you should have a reasonably accurate 
profile of your project. This data will serve 
as the basis of a more specialized analysis 
of your space requirements— a kind of 
blueprint which can be used to guide you 
in the actual selection of a space. 

Make sure you have a firm grasp of 
your real needs. Has your program 
expanded into different art forms that 
require special kinds of space? Are you 
starting a film or photo workshop which 
calls for a dark room? Do you need 
performing space to accommodate larger 
audiences? Will you require workshop 
facilities for a developing crafts program? 
Have your program and staff simply out- 
grown their quarters? 

If yours is a brand new program 
you will need to consider both immediate 
and long-range needs. Informal research, as 
opposed to the extensive investigations 
often conducted by major arts institutions, 
can be helpful here. Although it bears 
repeating that no other project can serve as 
an exact model, a visit to a similar program 

in the area can yield a great deal of useful 
information, including pitfalls to avoid in 
your planning. 

If you cannot locate such a 
program, obtain a copy of Grass Roots 
and Pavements, the national directory of 
neighborhood arts programs compiled by 
the Expansion Arts Program. It will help 
you to identify those groups whose experi- 
ences may provide the insights or 
encouragement you need. The Expansion 
Arts staff can also provide some assistance. 

The basic realities of your own 
program will nevertheless define the most 
functional framework for your plan of 
attack. The fundamental question in 
community and neighborhood arts is 
always: how can we get enough space at a 
price we can afford? Thus, even the most 
carefully laid out blueprint is often altered 
to accommodate the operation of the 
program within an available space which 
fits the size and price requirements. 

If financial limitations come in 
conflict with the logic of choosing enough 
space, plan ways to expand as need and 
resources develop. It won't cost very much 
to keep up the unfinished space. In 
addition, a long-range plan can help you 


make initial space allowances for projected 
growth and usage, as well as provide a sense 
of project stability and continuity that will 
make a favorable impression on potential 
funding agencies. 

A tight budget can motivate you to 
incorporate income-generating uses into 
your plans for the prospective facility. For 
example, some groups rent studio space to 
local artists who need a place to work, 
teach or sell their art. Consider, too, that 
an attractively decorated gallery-type space 
could be rented by community people, at 
more reasonable rates than elsewhere, for 
special occasions— i.e., wedding receptions 
and similar affairs. Consortium arrange- 
ments with other groups can also keep 
more money in the coffers. 

A word of caution: don't even 
think in terms of getting a larger space than 
your group can afford on its own unless 
you have a solid commitment from specific 
individuals or organizations to rent or 
sublease the extra space. Without this 
protection you could be stuck with a 
financial obligation far beyond your 





As we conclude the discussion on 
preliminary activities, there are two final 

1 ) Begin early to identify and 
cultivate key people in the community who 
can assist you. These include real estate 
agents, architects, contractors, electricians, 
carpenters, painters and other craftsmen. 
Many groups have had the foresight to 
include persons by inviting them to serve 
on an advisory or administrative board. If 
you decide to take this route, be sure to 
emphasize reciprocal advantages— i.e., 
participation of the individual's family 
members or relatives in the program, 
contribution toward cultural enrichment 
for the community and other civic 
outreach for which he or she would receive 

Establish personal con- 
tact with resource people 

at the outset. 

At any rate, the important thing is 
to establish personal contact with resource 
people at the outset— however you go 
about it. 

For example, an often overlooked 
reservoir of talent and skills can be found 
in nearby universities. Intermediate and 
advanced architecture and design students 
who need experience for their portfolios 
may be willing to volunteer their services. 
Check with department heads and faculty 
members to investigate this possibility. 

2) At the same time that key 
people are being located and approached, 
you should initiate the actual search for 
potential spaces. Your efforts can be as 
simple as consulting newspaper ads and 
driving around looking at properties with 
for sale or rent signs on them; or your 
search can become as involved as seeing an 
unoccupied building without a sign, 
looking up its ownership at city hall and 
making inquiries about its availability. 

Don't hesitate to ask some of the 
people with whom you've made contact. 
Realtors, of course, will have professional 
leads. But community leaders, especially 
older residents, are also very knowledgeable 
about property in their neighborhoods. 

In addition, they will often be able 
to provide invaluable insights as to the 
desirability or undesirability of specific 

A final word: remember to begin 
your search for space as you will, hope- 
fully, end it: with IMAGINATION. Cast 
your net wide enough to include what 
might at first appear to be unlikely choices, 
as well as the more likely ones. In the next 
section we will explore the process and 
challenge of selection. 






You have evaluated your project 
and have made the decision to relocate or 
to secure your first space. Where do you go 
from here? It is important to consider the 
unique needs of your program when 
making space decisions. Although it is wise 
to observe other organizations, your choice 
must prove to be beneficial to your 
program's needs. Your concern in space 
must take into account such things as 
sound, lighting, seating, heating and cooling 
systems, storage, plumbing, parking and 
accessibility, to name a few. 

More often than not, your neigh- 
borhood arts program survives on minimal 
subsidy. The acquisition of a new space is 
most probably beyond your reach. For 
little over a decade now, many arts groups 
such as yours have renovated unused spaces 
to house their projects. Such spaces have 
included; store fronts, small-scale commer- 
cial spaces, factories, churches, theatres, 
museums, barns, roller rinks, houses and 
mansions. Each has its advantages and 
disadvantages. It will be your administra- 
tive insight and creativity which will make 
your choice a successful one. 


During your space search it is wise 
to obtain the advice of professionals in the 
legal, architectural and construction fields. 
They can assist you in dealing with the 
myriad of major issues and minor details 
involved in the acquisition and renovation 
of your new space. It is advantageous to 
your organization if such persons are on 
your Board; their interest in your group 
will then be more personal and committed. 

Both the purchase and the rental of 
a property have legal ramifications which 
must be given serious consideration. What 
types of unseen problems could arise? Will 
there be any zoning code problems with 
the building of your choice? What will be 
the cost of insurance and taxes? If you are 
not a nonprofit organization, you should 
consider changing your status. (Consult 
Basic Management: The New Arts Project, 
volume 1 in this series) 

Build with those mate- 
rials which provide the 
maximum in fire preven- 

There are many additional 
questions which must be asked before you 
proceed to finalize any decision on your 
new space. Keeping your projected budget 
in mind, consider the cost of the move, any 
necessary renovation and maintenance. 
Advice from experts in their given fields 
can alert you to any major and minor 
restorational needs. Unseen expenses have a 
way of surfacing after the move is underway; 
do not overextend yourself. Have you 
considered administrative space? Is there 
adequate rehearsal and work room? Have 
you enough space for your audience? Will 
there be too much unused space? What 
types of refurbishment must you make to 
meet building codes? 

The following sections will attempt 
to assist you in making the right decisions 
in the acquisition of a new space. You can 
expect to encounter obstacles, but they can 
be met with clear thinking and creativity. 



You must make sure that you 
adhere to building codes when you secure 
your new space. It is advisable that you 
visit City Hall and obtain information 
applicable to your group. There are specific 
requirements and certificates for the use of 
a loft, theatre, museum or store; take the 
time to learn about the rules and regula- 
tions which relate to your situation. 

There are strict building codes 
which you must acknowledge and act 
upon. Fire requirements are of the utmost 
importance. There are requirements which 
specify the materials to be used for 
construction based on the amount of time 
it will take them to burn. When renovating 
your new space it is to your advantage to 
build with those materials which provide 
the maximum in fire prevention. 

Strict regulations are placed on 
exits of any public building. There must be 
at least two means of egress. If this stipula- 
tion is not satisfied in your new space, you 
must comply with the requisite. There are 
also specifications as to the amount of 
space per square foot which must be 
addressed in the event of fire. Sprinkler 
systems service a wider area of space and 
may be less expensive for you. If you are 
constructing stairways in your new space, 
consult the requirements on building codes 
before construction. Wood is highly 
flammable material, so you should consider 
a less dangerous one. 

Zoning codes concern themselves 
with the building's external aspect, activity 
and the area which encompasses it. The 
code differs for nonprofit organizations. 
You should consult the specifications of 
the zoning code for your particular 
program and new facility. The time you 
spend obtaining this information and 
implementing necessary changes will 
ultimately benefit your group. 


You've found a nice store front on 
a major thoroughfare in the neighborhood. 
Should you take it? First, reassess your 
needs; don't rush. Moving is a time- 
consuming and expensive venture. 
Consider the size of your program today 
and, then, consider your long-term plans. 
Do you hope to expand the scope and size 
of the project? Will the space be able to 
accommodate this growth? Will you need 
additional space for workshops, exhibitions 
or performances? Will there be room? Where 
will the administrative offices be located? 
Store fronts are often quickly outgrown, 
yet are an ideal space for smaller arts 
projects. If you have access to the upstairs 
floors, the space may meet the needs of 
your group. 

In the case of large spaces, such as 
factories or lofts, there is often a great 
amount of open space. Again, you must 
consider the requirements of your organiza- 
tion. You may have to partition off the 
room. You may have to construct 
permanent fire walls. Are there adequate 
rest room facilities? 

In the event that your organization 
takes on a new shape and calls for a smaller 
number, what will you do with the unused 
space? You have an option to rent space in 
your building to other arts groups or 
community programs. Such an arrangement 
can establish an on-going rapport between 
your program and the neighborhood. Do 
not, however, anticipate rentals when 
obtaining your new space unless you have 
obtained definite commitments. Choose 
what you need and can afford. 


In spite of the fact that renovating 
a space is costly, your creativity and 
ingenuity can limit the expense. Now your 
affiliation with the community is very 
important. You may be able to obtain 
volunteer services and donated materials 
from interested and concerned neighbors. 
Gifts can be quite helpful, but do not 
overlook building code regulations when 
accepting building materials. You must 
comply with all the legal requirements. 

Remember, each arts organization 
has its own unique needs. Somewhere there 
is an available space which will best suit 
your program. Take time to find it. After 
you have done so, take time to consider 
how best to restructure the space to fit 
your needs. If your organization is 
peformance oriented, look into the activity 
of the surrounding environment. Will 
performances be drowned out by disco 
music from the local cocktail lounge? Does 
the factory next door seemingly produce 
more noise in the evening than in the day? 
Does rain and thunder on the roof resemble 
a ritual of Zeus and the Greek Gods? 

Installation of sound proofing may be 
expensive, but necessary. 

Before purchasing or renting a 
space, be sure you have chosen new 
quarters which require the least amount of 
work and expenditure. Prior to making any 
commitments, thoroughly investigate the 
facility. Will heating or cooling the new site 
be too great a financial burden for your 
limited budget? Have you consulted an 
electrician? How much rewiring must be 
undertaken? Has there been any corrosion? 
Will there be future problems with the 
roof? Are there signs of leaks? Check your 
ceilings and walls. What is the condition of 
the plumbing in the new site? If you will be 
hanging large or heavy objects from ceilings 
and walls, consideration should be given to 
the materials from which they are con- 
structed. You don't want patches of ceiling 
and wall falling from your new space. 
Devoting careful attention to such ques- 
tions in the planning stage will ultimately 
prove beneficial to you and help you to 
avoid a great many problems in the future. 

1 1 


Visual excitement is the key to a 
unique and welcoming arts space. It should 
reflect what you do and what you are 
about— art. An imaginative and venture- 
some mind can turn a hideous building 
code requirement into an artistic 
expression. Protective measures against 
burglary— cemented and barred windows- 
can be skillfully disguised. The manner in 
which you decorate the interior of your 
new-found space is very important. Offices 
need not be traditional in structure or 
atmosphere. You hope that the people of 
your community, those you serve, will 
want to participate in your program. A 
creative, welcoming atmosphere is one very 
effective way of getting your community 
involved in your program. 




Accessibility is very important. Are 
you located near public transportation? 
How frequently does this service run? Have 
you adequate parking space? Is the area 
safe for parking? Will you have to install 
floodlights in the parking area? Are you 
on a main thoroughfare or tucked away on 
a side street? These are some of the 
questions you must ask prior to obtaining 
your new home. 

Transportation to your locale is 
very important if you are to have patrons. 
Your newly found space should be near 
bus, subway or trolley lines. Whether the 
environment is fairly safe during evening 
hours is another issue which should also be 
considered. You may find that a bit of 
landscaping must be done to provide 
sufficient parking. If your building happens 
to be hidden from view, consider an artistic 
means of directing people to your site. 

Your space should be 
nmmr bus, subway or 
trolley lines. 


The decision to move into a new 
space is not a matter to be taken lightly. 
You must evaluate your project and be 
certain that it is ready for such a move. 
Finances, community involvement and 
careful choice of the new facility are the 
most important aspects of the decision- 
making process. Consider long-range plans 
when considering space choice. Remember, 
it is unwise to move your program if it is 
not ready for such an undertaking. 

Your new building should reflect 
your program. You are servicing the 
neighborhood. Do not forget to include 
them in the planning and renovation 
process. They, too, can be of assistance, 
although you as the director must make 
final decisions. A good choice in Board 
members can be beneficial to your move. 
Persons with expertise can pinpoint 
projected problems and their resolution. A 
word of advice: do not use these individuals 
merely as means to obtain your ends— the 
new site. Include them in the artistic 
framework of your program and invite their 
family members to participate in your 

Dealing With Space is intended to 
assist you, the program director, in your 
decision to relocate. This source is one in a 
series of four manuals designed to help 
neighborhood arts groups. It is sponsored 
by the Expansion Arts Program of the 
National Endowment for the Arts. 


Page Number Photographer 

v Perlmutter 

4 Perlmutter 

10 Perlmutter 

11 Perlmutter 

Graphic design by Portfolio Associates, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa. 
Lisa Werchow, Art Director