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May 18, 2022
 
Arts & Business Council Buys Studio/Loft Space in Lowell

April 11, 2022 — The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, a Boston nonprofit which provides resources to support the area’s cultural nonprofits, last week announced it purchased the Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts in Lowell for $20 million to ensure the complex remains a creative home for artists and small creative business owners.

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston said purchase formally closed on March 1, and is the second building it has acquired as part of its Creative Campus initiative.

The Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts (WASL) complex is one of the largest live/work artist communities in the country that was still privately owned. It comprises 240,000 square feet of space and includes 250 work-only artist studios, 50 live/work studios, a brewery, cafe, and gallery.

The Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts complex in Lowell

The Council said the purchase is a major step forward and is part of a long-term, strategic approach to addressing issues of inequity and inequitable access enabling artists consistent and affordable capital to address space needs.

Council Executive Director Jim Grace, said,, “There is a space crisis in the arts. Our Creative Campus initiative is a response to gentrification in Greater Boston and the resulting loss of affordable maker spaces for our creative communities. This purchase ensures that the artist space at Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts will remain affordable, community-based, and dedicated to creative businesses.”

He added, “Preserving Western Avenue is an important step in creating momentum towards preserving other buildings like this across New England to address the space crisis in the arts.”

“It was our hope that Western Avenue would be preserved by a mission-driven organization that would maintain the affordable spaces for artists and the creative community,” said Karl Frey, WASL co-founder. “We are delighted to partner with the Arts & Business Council to make this a reality for many generations of artists in the future.”

WASL, formerly the Massachusetts Mohair Plush Company, was renovated in 2012 into artist work only studios and artist live/work lofts. Now, the complex fulfills the space needs of 350 artists.

The Council’s Creative Campus initiative focuses on developing and owning creative real estate projects by eliminating barriers for smaller organizations and individual artists to access safe, affordable, long-term, flexible space. Volunteers Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, which merged with the Council in 2008, has been dedicated to protecting the rights and creative works of artists and organizations through direct service, workshops, and legacy planning for more than 30 years.

To date, the Council has trained more than 1,000 and directly placed over 300 executives to serve on a number of nonprofit cultural organization boards

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