We’ve learned a lot from our recent experience as itinerant artists, moving from studio to studio while we search for a more permanent, affordable option. So in late December, we responded to a recent article in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix chronicling high downtown vacancies and the subsequent lack of people with a letter to the editor. If downtown Saskatoon needs people and we need space, why not work together?
From the StarPhoenix, December 30, 2021
Artists create a lively, active local scene that brings more people downtown, Donna Rose and Betsy Rosenwald write.
So, downtown Saskatoon needs its people back. How about making some of the vacant space available to artists at a reasonable cost?
We are two artists who have lost two studios in three years to development. Despite a high rate of commercial vacancies, we have been unable to find affordable workspace in Saskatoon. We are not alone and after years of consultation with the City of Saskatoon, the needle has not moved an inch toward finding a solution to this problem.
Saskatchewan artists get paid for their work, but most don’t get paid much. We work outside our art practices to earn a living. In Saskatchewan, the average employment income of artists is $22,800, compared with $43,700 for the overall labour force, a difference of 48 per cent. This is one reason why we can’t afford current commercial rents.
The arts are good for local businesses. Innumerable studies have shown that working artists and arts organizations are an effective tool to revitalize neighbourhoods, especially in the downtown core.
In addition to spending money at local shops and restaurants, artists create a lively, active local scene that brings more people downtown. They attend local events and shop at local businesses, which has a direct impact on our city’s economic prosperity.
It would benefit all of us to work together, whether through tax incentives to building owners or creating a network of available temporary and permanent spaces. Cities across North America have done this and reaped the benefits. Why can’t we?
Dawna Rose and Betsy Rosenwald
You can read the letter in its published format here: https://thestarphoenix.com/opinion/letters/letters-the-arts-can-benefit-downtown-businesses