“Zero Empty Spaces” continues to open artist studio spaces during the pandemic – and the artists keep coming

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In July 2019 – a pre-pandemic world – WLRN looked at a brand new initiative for artists in Broward County called “Zero Empty Spaces”.

We described it like this at the time:

“Cities don’t like empty storefronts. They’re not good for business, and tourists notice when there’s a dark store in a row of otherwise bright stores and restaurants. A new initiative in Fort Lauderdale called Zero Empty Spaces invites artists to move into some of these empty stores, serving as an intermediary between artists and owners.The initiative is just getting started, and is in a trial period on Las Olas Blvd.

Two years and 20 more places later, the pandemic has not slowed down the program.

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Next to the Gulfstream Park Racecourse, there are rows of shops and restaurants. Out back by a Williams Sonoma, an empty store has been transformed into a cluster of art studios during the pandemic.

Jillian Blake rents 136 square feet in the shop with high walls to hang her paintings.

She and 17 other artists each rent a part of this store. And she is among nearly 200 South Florida artists who have taken advantage of Zero Empty Spaces over the past two years, according to property managers who run the program.

Under this initiative, artists rent space for $2 per square foot, regardless of where the empty store is. The average rent someone pays is around $240 per month, for 120 square feet.

Thus, artists do not pay market rates.

Before Blake moved into her art studio in Gulfstream Park, she worked in her garage – with no air conditioning.

“And then I was like I was sneaking into another room. And then I’d like to sneak into another room. And my husband was like, ‘OK, how many rooms do you have in the house? “”, Did she say. “And I said, you know what? Let me try to find a space for myself.”

She started renting this space in October 2020, after trying a few other Zero Empty Space locations and waiting for one that suited her.

On Blake’s easel, just before the in-person grand opening reception in August 2021, is a US Marine Corps emblem painting: an eagle, globe and anchor in the colors black, white and brown.

“These are a little messy because I needed the white to be perfectly white. And then all the brown will actually be gold leaf,” Blake said.

Her dad was in the Marines, so she thinks of him while she’s working on this one.

You could say it’s unlike any of her other paintings, but Blake’s signature style is a bit of that – she has none.

“If I want to create a bunny because I was going down a rabbit hole tonight, I’m going to paint 17,” she said. “If I like Ruth Bader Ginsburg because she’s some kind of dope, I’ll paint her.”

Zero Empty Spaces has opened a total of 21 artist studios over the past two years — primarily in Broward, but now Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties also have locations. There is also a space in Sarasota. Of all the spaces, 12 are currently open and have working artists.

It’s actually one more studio than the initiative’s leaders planned to open in this time frame – the sixth studio opened in March 2020.

This shows that the pandemic has not harmed the project, and perhaps even helped. people have been really want their own space.

“Just…you feel like a human. You feel like you’re part of society and you’re doing something where you can step outside of your home and call a space your own,” Blake said. .

Evan Snow co-founded Zero Empty Spaces with his partner, Andrew Martineau.

“Artists were really demanding and yearned for the opportunity to get out of their homes and create again,” Snow said.

In addition to the Zero Empty Spaces initiative to create affordable studio space, Snow also helped start the #Choose954 marketing platform as well as the group that organizes the annual art fair on the water.

The $2 per square foot fee that artists pay to Snow and his business partner is used to cover liability, insurance, utilities and things like artist receptions and marketing.

If a more permanent tenant shows up for a space, a property manager gives 30 days notice and the artists must move out.

Artists who use the spaces agree that it’s better to know ahead of time that you might need to move, than to help make the area more attractive just to get a price.

“Fortunately, as we continue to open more and more spaces, we are able to transition artists if and when the space is rented,” Snow said.

And this approach can have advantages.

“So maybe they’re taking a space here in Hallandale [Beach], but they live in Fort Lauderdale. And then as we open next space in Fort Lauderdale, they may be closer to home – a shorter drive,” he said.

And unfortunately – or, fortunately for artists – there is story after story and a national trend of the pandemic is creating more. empty showcases.

“Art gave me more in terms of fulfillment in my life never being an artist, never picking up a paintbrush, and never creating art myself. It changed my life,” Snow said. “And I really wanted to have those experiences in a place like Broward County, where I’m still proud to be born and raised.”

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