After completing my first year-long lease with a local building and moving into a new studio space, I have come up with some helpful tips to navigate this artistic necessity. As an artist, college and the buildings themselves don’t provide much help to young artists who are seeking affordable studios.
Finding a Space
Its easy to find studios that are over-priced in the arts districts of Minneapolis and St Paul. These studios will be high rents with small spaces. Taking the time to find the right space for you rather than choosing a space because its an “artist building” will save you money. There are also plenty of buildings around the artist districts that are less know that other local artists are renting at. Turn to Craig’s List and search under the Commercial and Warehouse section for areas to rent. You can also search for studio space under the Artists section too. Buildings often list their contact information on a sign on the outside of the building if they have space to rent as well.
Keep your eyes and ears open to all possibilities, ask other local artists where they have their studios located at.
Set a range of what you are willing to spend on a space and stick to it. It will help you keep a logical mind and narrow your possibilities in spaces. In addition to your rent range, also decide what your space requirements and other non-negotiables are for a space. Consider location, size and windows/lighting as options. Do you have heat and air conditioning in your space.
Your Studio Neighbors: Choose Wisely
It’s important to know who your neighbors are whether or not you are renting in a warehouse space or an arts focused studio building. Your neighbors can make or break your creative environment and ambiance. My last studio space had a martial arts association move in behind my studio, a Pilates and yoga workout fitness center move in above me and a DJ down the hall. Learning about what your noise tolerance is when you work in your studio and learning who your neighbors are is important to selecting the best space. Its also a good indicator when you need to find a new studio space.
Some artists rent out half of their space to an artist or two in order to cut down on the cost of rent. While this seems like a great idea, do not just agree to have any artist in your space. Interview potential people, its okay to say no. Have an open conversation with your prospective artist roommate(s) about what is allowed to happen in the space. Think about how you navigate various mediums and residues from art materials, visitors, noise levels and work habits. How often will you be there together and what happens when these boundaries are crossed. Think about whether a roommate is a good idea for you. While it may make sense financially, it may not work out artistically especially if you make artwork that needs room or uses toxic materials.
Learn Your Terms
Have your lease company walk you through the lease itself to let you know if any important stipulations. Some leases require you to have insurance for your space, charge extra for a air conditioner or prohibit overnight parking. Make sure you understand the details and terms before you sign. If you need help, seek out a local lawyer if its difficult to understand the jargon. There are plenty of lawyers who help artists specifically including Kunkle Law, Freidman Iverson and Davis Law.
If you own your own business entity such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) then sign your lease as your company. When signing a lease, make sure you get a copy of the lease for your records as well. If the company is making any of this process difficult, its a good sign that they might not be the best leasing company to rent from.
After You Secure Your Space
Once you sign the lease but before you move in, take pictures! Document everything. I improved my last studio space (which was allowed) and took before and after pictures. I was able to use these images to help negotiate down a rent increase. This is also good if you need to prove you did not cause damage if you were denied your security deposit back once you move out.