Community benefits

Artists are not the only ones to benefit from people attending their exhibitions in empty spaces, it also positively impacts on local communities, including landlords.

When large numbers of people attend a specific happening or events, such as 2010's Never Can Say Goodbye exhibition by No Longer Empty at Tower Records in New York, there is a better chance of the space being commercially rented as it presents it in a good light – although this type of empty space project takes considerably more resourcing in terms of needing volunteer staff to be on site to allow the public inside.

After School Matters program, ChicagoAnother example of how an empty spaces project turned into a long-term community benefit was the use of Block 37 in the middle of the Downtown Loop area. Block 37 had been derelict for almost 20 years until the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs at the time, Lois Weisberg, came up with an idea for a young people’s arts program to make use of the space.

Called Gallery 37, local teenagers were paid an hourly wage to create artwork in this block area outside, so people could walk by and watch them work, and then they could sell their work in a gallery nearby.

“It was a very successful program because it was solving two problems at once," says Lauren, "And this is what pop ups do. They solve an abandoned building problem – what to do with this empty space, how to make it look better and how to use it effectively. And also, in the case of Block 37, the problem of a lot of local schools not having arts programs.”

The program paid the young people a stipend to do art work through the summer, allowing them to bring in much-needed income for their families while working on their craft, developing arts skills and exploring with professional teaching artists. The arts program included different disciplines: music, dance, visual arts and the culinary arts.

Eventually the space was purchased by a developer but by then the Gallery 37 had became a permanent program called After School Matters, which is now part of the Chicago public school system – a great outcome for the community.