Creative places and businesses report cover

Creative Places and Businesses Report Release

Over the past several months, Calvert Foundation has worked with UpStart Co-Lab, an initiative that connects artists, impact investors, and social entrepreneurs to create opportunities for artist innovators to deliver social impact at scale and to better understand demand for creative places and businesses. The findings are detailed in a report just released entitled “Creative Places and Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities”.

Through this partnership, Calvert Foundation has learned a tremendous amount about the many opportunities and challenges facing artists, entrepreneurs, financiers, and community leaders across the U.S. who are working at the intersection of arts and economic development.

While the “creative economy” is a relatively new term, the activity it encompasses has been going on long before it had a name. A closer look at our own portfolio revealed that many of our existing and past borrowers in community development and affordable housing also do work to finance the intersection of arts and culture and community revitalization.

This includes groups like Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national CDFI that runs a creative place-making program to integrate arts and culture into broader plans to revitalize communities. LISC recently helped to finance new headquarters for Taller Puertorriqueño, a Philadelphia arts and culture organization, with a $2.1 million loan. The newly opened El Corazón Cultural Center is an anchor in one of Philadelphia’s lowest-income neighborhoods and “a true reflection of the organization and its mission to provide a space for inspiration and connection,” says LISC Creative Place-making Director Lynne McCormack.

Another borrower of ours, Artspace, is a national leader in developing artist-focused affordable housing in the U.S. For the past 20 years, Artspace has developed nearly 2,000 units of affordable housing for artists and millions of square feet in non-residential community and commercial spaces across the country. Artspace enables artists, innovators, and entrepreneurs with spaces to work and live and ultimately, to make powerful difference in their communities – and in communities around the world.

Entrepreneurs like Kate Herzog operate commercial space made possible by Artspace. A native of Ghana, Kate founded House of Talents, a fair trade business that works with hundreds of artisans in Ghana and Mali to equitably produce and sell handcrafted goods. Kate has distributed these goods through major retailers such as Anthropologie, Crate and Barrel, Ten Thousand Villages, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Two of our borrowers, The Reinvestment Fund and Homes for America, collaborated with Jubilee Baltimore to develop City Arts, an award winning housing development that revitalized a vacant block in Baltimore into quality affordable housing designed to serve local artists. City Arts has 69 units of affordable artist housing with gallery and studio space on the ground floor. The units are available to those with incomes less than 60% of the area median income and are offered at well-below market rental rates.

We applaud Upstart Co-Lab’s work for bringing these fields closer together so that more people appreciate the positive contribution of artists and arts organizations in their communities. We look forward to continuing to support the creative economy through our innovative borrowers like LISC, Artspace, The Reinvestment Fund, and Homes for America and their efforts to transform and empower communities through arts, culture, and connection.