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InterUrban ArtHouse Builds Support for New HQ in Downtown OP

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The InterUrban ArtHouse—an Overland Park-based nonprofit that offers stable, affordable studio space to artists—is moving closer and closer to buying its own building.

Founder Nicole Emanuel and her team are raising funds to buy the U.S. Postal Service facility at 8010 Conser. They plan to renovate the building to include 12 studios, exhibition space and classrooms.

That could be great news for the local economy. After all, artists are entrepreneurs, and Johnson County suffers from a lack of affordable studio space. The refurbished building would serve as a community hub, where artists could more easily interact and support each other.

The project recently celebrated two big wins: The Overland Park City Council has approved a $162,500 grant to help InterUrban buy the 10,000-square-foot building, about double the space the nonprofit has available now.

Kansas officials also have awarded $220,000 in Kansas Community Service Tax Credits to the effort.

What’s the Next Step?

There’s still significant work to be done before InterUrban ArtHouse can complete the purchase. For one thing, the project needs donors or the state tax credits are useless.

That’s due to how the tax credits work: A person makes a donation to the InterUrban ArtHouse, which in exchange provides that person with tax credits worth 50 percent of their gift.

The building’s purchase price is $522,500. Renovating the building will take about another $500,000. So far, a donor has pledged $100,000 to that part of the plan.

Where Is InterUrban ArtHouse Based Now?

At 8001 Conser, across the street from the building Emanuel and her team want to buy. InterUrban rents the basement of 8001 Conser, which has room for nine studios. They’re occupied by a range of arts professionals: painters, textile artists, art therapists, a landscape architect, a video production firm and more.

Unfortunately, Emanuel said, “the need is greater than the amount of space available.” Being in the building’s basement also limits InterUrban’s visibility. And the refurbished the Postal Service building would provide better access to people with mobility issues and physical disabilities.

Besides its studio space, InterUrban offers a range of arts programs for the community, such as ArtWorks, which offers business training for local artists, and ArtMatters, a lineup of workshops, critiques, mentoring and other help for artists to refine their skills.

Why Does InterUrban ArtHouse Need to Own Its Own Building?

Artists can have a transformative effect on their neighborhoods—just witness everything that’s happened to Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. Few of the area’s startups, restaurants or shops would have located there if artists hadn’t built up the Crossroads first.

Unfortunately, once a neighborhood starts to get popular, artists are one of the first groups to be priced out of the market. The people who kickstarted the activity have to move on. Experts call it the “SoHo effect.”

Having a resource like the InterUrban ArtHouse could short-circuit the SoHo effect. As a nonprofit, InterUrban would have the ability to shield artist-entrepreneurs from rising rents.

Emanuel, who is a painter and sculptor, is no stranger to creating places for artists. Before she came to Kansas City, she was an artists’ housing specialist, working with teams in Minneapolis and San Francisco to create live-work spaces for creators.

The Crossroads justly gets a lot of attention for its arts culture. But nationally, Johnson County is in the top 4 percent for arts participation and contributions. In the immediate Kansas City metro, Johnson County leads in spending on the arts. Thousands of artists are based in JoCo—and they don’t have many places to congregate.

“There is no stable, studio art complex in Johnson County,” Emanuel said.

Want to See How Arts Can Contribute to the Community?

InterUrban ArtHouse is part of Local Life, a grassroots group that hosts arts-related programming in downtown Overland Park on the third Friday of the month. On Oct. 16, they’ll bring a hip-hop dance troupe to the downtown clock tower. Aerial performance group Voler – Thieves of Flight will entertain audiences inside the General Store & Co., and musician Amado Espinoza will play inside 10,000 Villages. Learn more at www.facebook.com/locallifeop.

(rendering courtesy of Hollister + Miller Architects and Lauren McGill)