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creative:impact - The search for a shared space for artists and creatives resumes

Artspace Open House Flyer
Artspace Open House Flyer

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

David Fair
89.1 WEMU
Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, at the WEMU studio.


Artspace is a nonprofit arts organization specializing in creating, owning, and operating affordable spaces for artists and creative businesses. These spaces include live/work apartments for artists and their families, working artist studios, arts centers, commercial space for arts-friendly businesses, and other projects.

Our mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable and sustainable space for artists and arts organizations. Artspace works in three major areas: Consulting Services, Property Development, and Asset Management. Through our Consulting Services, we share our expertise with clients across the country. Property Development creates new Artspace projects through a mix of historic renovation and new construction. Artspace's Asset Management group ensures long-term financial stability and affordability for artists.

A live/work project is a residential building in which each dwelling has extra space (100 to 150 square feet) that the artist can use as a studio. Live/work units by Artspace have consistent design elements, such as high ceilings, large windows, durable surfaces, and wide doorways. These spaces are designed to accommodate and foster a variety of creative processes. Artspace live/work projects also include common spaces such as galleries, meeting rooms, and green space that encourage tenant engagement, cooperation, and community involvement. Most Artspace live/work projects are mixed-use buildings with housing on the upper floors and non-residential space on the lower floors.

The majority of Artspace’s housing units are affordable to households earning at or below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) of the city or county in which the project is located.

in setting our rents, we adhere to affordable housing guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD uses a formula based on the local Area Median Income (AMI), the degree of affordability of any given unit (expressed as a percentage of the AMI), the number of bedrooms in the unit, and the number of people in the household. While rents vary by community, our goal is to provide affordable space that is adequate for artists both to live and to work in their units. Artspace buildings provide live/work apartments that are larger than other affordable spaces, and usually less expensive than other comparable spaces. And as part of our sustainability model, Artspace buildings remain affordable in perpetuity.

Anyone who qualifies for affordable housing may apply for residency in an Artspace project, but we give preference to those applicants who participate in and are committed to the arts. Applicants need not derive their income from their art.

We define the term “artist” broadly to comprise a wide variety of creative pursuits, including traditional art forms and those as diverse as clothing design, weaving, and even canoe making. A community-based Selection Committee interviews all applicants. The committee looks for evidence that applicants are seriously committed to their art and that they will be mindful and positive contributors to the building and community. The application and qualification process does not include judgment of the quality of work.

How are projects funded?

We access public funding sources including those available for the creation of affordable housing, economic development, historic preservation, and cultural facility development. Private sector funding includes conventional bank financing as well as individual and community philanthropic support.


We are Synecdoche, an interdisciplinary creative studio. As architects, designers, and makers we leverage operations, utilize material detailing, and consider code application tactically to boldly approach projects with purpose. We are a team of doers. We don’t just make s**t, we make s**t happen. Driven by a rebellious spirit and relentless curiosity, we challenge the expectation and believe everyone deserves great design. We create experiences and seize opportunities that help our clients solve problems. Our agile approach blends innovative strategic thinking with ideation and execution. We’re comprehensive and find meaning in the mundane that considers design in every step of the process. Our imagination leads to realized projects from small objects and digital graphics to master plans and new constructions.


Aneesha Marwah
Aneesha Marwah

Aneesha Marwah joined Artspace Consulting in 2017. She moved to Minneapolis from Chicago, where she previously worked for Goodman Williams Group, a real estate research firm. Aneesha earned her Master of Urban Planning and Policy with a concentration in Economic Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2015. Major projects she’s involved with at Artspace include the Preliminary Feasibility and Creative Space Market Studies for Artspace’s consulting communities. She's assisted over 50 communities and arts organizations to date. Before joining Artspace, her work included transit-oriented development studies, downtown master planning, and housing market studies.

Prior to moving to Chicago for graduate school, Aneesha lived in New Orleans for nine years, where she attended Tulane University and was a legislative aide. She saw firsthand the relationship between politics and urban planning, and furthered her interest in affordable housing policy, art as a tool for economic development, and the need to preserve space for culturally distinct communities. Aneesha spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia, and her love for travel and learning about new communities has not waned. She brings her knowledge and experience living and working in different parts of the world to the Consulting team and looks forward to continuing to assist communities creating affordable spaces for artists.

When she is not at Artspace, you can find Aneesha playing with her puppy, Paws; exploring all the amazing biking, hiking, and cross-country ski trails in the Twin Cities; or hanging out in the North Loop with her husband. Aneesha is a 2019 Fellow of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators and currently serves as a Minneapolis City Planning Commissioner for the 2020-2022 and 2022-2024 terms.


Lisa Sauve
Synedoche Design
Lisa Sauve

Lisa Sauve, Co-founding Principal and CEO. Co-Founding Principal and CEO of Synecdoche (si-nek-duh-kee) an award winning design/make architecture practice with studios in Ann Arbor and Detroit and also the Founder of Do Good Work, a501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen the community of creators and artists with positive changes in resources and placemaking toward a strong and inclusive social, economic and cultural fabric of our community. She is also the Co-founder of Studio Studio, a modern venue and co-working space for creatives and photographers in Ann Arbor and teaches at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Lisa was named Crain’s Detroit Notable Women in Design in 2020 and in 2021 was recognized by Forbes Next 1000, AIA Michigan Young Architect Award, and UM Taubman College Outstanding Recent Graduate. A licensed architect in the State of Michigan and currently serves as a planning commissioner for the City of Ann Arbor, founding board member for Equitable Ann Arbor Community Trust, and committee chair for Art in Public at A2AC. Holds degrees for M. Arch and MSc. in Conservation from Taubman College at the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Architecture from Lawrence Technological University. She has also taught undergraduate and graduate level courses at University of Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Technological University, and the University of Michigan Taubman College.



Artspace on Facebook

Artspace on Twitter

Artspace on Instagram

City Hall Artspace Lofts

Artspace Open House Contact Info

Synecdoche Design

Synedoche Design on Facebook

Synedoche Design on Twitter

Synedoche Design on Instagram

Washtenaw County Cultural Master Plan

Washtenaw County Creative Center Assessment Report: June 30, 2017


Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, and your host for creative:impact. Thank you for tuning in every Tuesday as we welcome creative guests with roots in Washtenaw County and explore how their creative businesses, product, programs, and services impact and add to our local quality of life, place, and economy. You know, if you posed the question, "What would help you be successful to a roomful of artists and creatives?" There's a generally usual response: more funding, more marketing, a community calendar of events, and a shared space to work. We're going to dive into one of those today: the shared space, the shared creative space. There have been many initiatives to explore that possibility here in Washtenaw County, and in fact, Creative Washtenaw has led a few feasibility studies on the subject. Yet to share space has been kind of like the Holy Grail. Never to give up hope, there is a new approach underway spawned by community members under the guidance of Artspace, a Minnesota company that has launched dozens of shared artists lived workspaces across the country. Lisa Sauve is one of the community leaders in the effort, and Aneesha Marwah of Artspace is part of the team as well. We'd like to introduce Lisa. Say hello, Lisa.

Lisa Sauve: Hello. Thank you.

Deb Polich: And also welcome, Aneesha, to creative:impact.

Aneesha Marwah: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me.

Deb Polich: Yeah, thanks for being here. So, Lisa, you know you're part of the community team here. What's prompted this renewed interest in a shared creative space?

Lisa Sauve: I mean, it's not even renewed, it's just continuing on and figuring out how to take the next step forward, maybe through some new tools and access points. And so, as an architect and planning commissioner in town, I have a good experience and effort in the built environment. And so, I feel like I can help propel it in the tangible side.

Deb Polich: So, you guys have brought in Artspace this time around. And, Aneesha, can you tell us what Artspace is and what it does?

Aneesha Marwah: Sure. We're a national nonprofit. We've been founded for about a little over 30 years. We're based in Minneapolis, and we create live, worked-in community spaces all across the country with a focus on affordability and sustainability for artists and arts organizations. We have 58 projects to date as we were up in New York City to Honolulu and in the town of Ridgeway, Colorado, a town of 900 people. The closest to you all in Washtenaw County, we have one in Dearborn, Michigan, that opened just about five years ago.

Deb Polich: Right. A very beautiful space, and I hear it's successful. So, Lisa, who's involved with this initiative and where are you in the process?

Lisa Sauve: Yeah. So, we're just starting the feasibility with Artspace. Artspace has a sequential process that they go through. We have team members from development, art, finance, affordable housing on the team, so that we're bringing community members with expertize and network extensions within all of those areas. So this is the first phase.

Deb Polich: OK, OK. So it's early, early days, as they say. Aneesha, what does Artspace offer that can take this idea and get it over the finish line?

Aneesha Marwah: Sure. Well, we are a full scale consultant and developer, so I'm coming from our consulting team to really find out. I know you've done a number of studies, and we've had a chance to review those. But, to look at, you know, how could this be a follow-up to that? How does this really, kind of, our development team make sure that the tools are in place to move this into a development project? And so, once we come back, we'll look at all of our findings, hear from the creative sector, really kind of hone in on exactly kind of those space needs, talk about some of the challenges that have been faced before, what didn't work, look at a number of different sites in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and to be able to do a market study as our next phase, and then work with our development team to see how to make this project come to fruition.

Deb Polich: That's awesome. Eighty nine one WEMU's creative:impact continues. I'm Deb Polich, and I'm talking with Lisa Sauve and Aneesha Marwah about the possibility of a lived workspace for artists in the community. So, Lisa, why do you think, you know, as a creative yourself, why do you think the idea of a shared space is so compelling?

Lisa Sauve: I mean, I think we know the creative economy in any community is an anchor to what makes us all love where we live. It plays a role in the, you know, how we live, work, and enjoy each other and share culture. So, bringing everyone together, I think what we've seen in the community, is many people, you know, working in small silos and separate, and you get so much more convergence when everybody's under one roof. You'll share resources and knowledge, experience, and kind of new ideas together. And so, putting people in one space creates that sort of magic.

Deb Polich: So, you know, having been involved with many of these feasibility studies here and other ways in other places, you know, it's one of those second things that was in the room full of creatives, what do you need and its funding. Funding always becomes a big issue. How does Artspace help a community of artists, Aneesha, get through that?

Aneesha Marwah: Yeah. So, we, you know, we do rely on a lot of philanthropy and public dollars to make our projects work to be able to keep them affordable. In order to do that, we really look at what other goals in the community--kind of community project like this--align with. So, one of the first questions we'll ask artists, we'll ask civic leaders, we'll ask finance leaders, is what are those other alignments with community goals? We hear, especially coming out of the pandemic, a lot about connectivity and wanting placemaking and wanting, you know, a sense of togetherness after being isolated for so long. So, if that's all of those community goals or if it's bridging cultural divides or age differences, if those are all over overarching goals for a community, how can we work together to finance a project like this that really brings all those together in an arts way.

Deb Polich: And does that include the ongoing operations? I mean, our studies have led to the fact that there's almost always going to be need for subsidy. Perhaps you have a different formula. But is that part of what you help the community identify?

Aneesha Marwah: So, we will look at, you know, who are those philanthropic partners and what are the funding sources available. Given our work in Michigan previously, we have a good handle on a lot of those resources, but our projects take a long time to get developed because of the fact that we look to get all the funding in place ahead of time.

Deb Polich: And when you say long time, is that months, years, or what?

Aneesha Marwah: It can take up to, I would say, between four and seven years.

Deb Polich: Oh my gosh, that is a long time. A long, long time.

Aneesha Marwah: Yeah.

Deb Polich: Yeah, sure. So, this isn't happening tomorrow.

Aneesha Marwah: Definitely. It's not happening tomorrow. But, you know, having a center like this that can really, you know, anchor the creative community takes time, as you all know from all the studies that in the legwork that you've already done, too.

Deb Polich: Well, I hope that's helping to some extent. So, Lisa, how do artists and creatives and community members, for that matter, get involved?

Lisa Sauve: Yes, so we're going to have an open house on Wednesday the 23rd at 6 PM--7PM--and you can reach out for our standard Zoom link to Artspace dot Washtenaw at gmail.com, and we'll be able to share it with everybody in the community. And so, we'd love to invite everybody out to share the information and answer any Q&A.

Deb Polich: That's great, and we'll have that on our website, too. That information. So, you know, Lisa and Aneesha, the desire seems to clearly be there. We have to be patient, it sounds like.

Aneesha Marwah: Yes, definitely. I think to make sure that this is done well and it has all of the input from the committee members that are, you know, have worked on this for so long and to really want to see us come to the finish line, it will be really key to that movement.

Deb Polich: And what lessons have you learned, Aneesha,--and maybe, Lisa, you can chime in on this--about what makes the difference between a project like this coming to fruition or not?

Aneesha Marwah: I will say we've seen, you know, when kind of a project it becomes, you know, holds on to one, you know, barrel effort that really loves the idea and then that leaves office and then we kind of see their project fail because there's not the full groundswell of artists and community organizations that really want a project to succeed, the kind of it that holds on one or two people. It's, you know, that's really tough to move forward. So, I would say the ones that have been the most successful have been, you know, a cooperative effort of many people in the community, and that can really push that advocacy. They can, you know, push for those other goals that can be seen. I think, coming out of the pandemic, too, there's so much need for that kind of community connection component, which will be key in a project like this where, you know, if you have public space, if you have gallery space, if you have public engagement space, what is all of that would like and who would be, you know, funding that and who would be operating it. So, really coming together with different partners from the get-go is important.

Deb Polich: [00:09:08] So, Lisa, Aneesha mentioned a mayor or the leadership in a community and a municipality, and we're not really well known here in the Washtenaw County area of having municipalities get invested in arts and creative initiatives. Do you think we can persuade them?

Lisa Sauve: I think we can. I think it's not just about like the support behind, but, you know, follow-through and execution. And we have some great creative organizations that are supporting artists, you know, through programming and advocacy. But, execution in the built environment is really difficult, and that's where we really need the support. Zoning and building construction finance. That's where it went. With Artspace's help, we can really outline those, like, tangible efforts that are a bit more difficult and not maybe in the expertize of arts organizations, but in other consultants that really help within this realm of getting a project off the ground.

Deb Polich: Well, Lisa and Aneesha, thank you so much. You know, the desire is clearly there, and we look forward to working with you and trying to get this project over the finish line. Thanks for being on the show.

Lisa Sauve: Thanks so much for having us, Deb.

Aneesha Marwah: Thanks, Deb.

Deb Polich: You're welcome. That's community member Lisa Sauve and Aneesha Marwah of Artspace, who are leading a community effort to create a lived workspace for artists in the community. Find out more about the effort and how to get involved at WEMU dot org. I'm Deb Polich, President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, and your host for creative impact. Please join me next week to meet another creative Washtenaw guest. This is your community NPR Radio Station, eighty nine one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.

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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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