Renovated Feed & Grain The Next Step In Loveland's Arts Evolution
The Loveland Feed & Grain has been powering the city of Loveland for a long time.
Built in 1892, it was the site of the first electric lighting in Loveland. When the mill found that it had more electrical capacity than it could use, it offered the extra up to the town.
"And provided the power for the very first city street lights," said Felicia Harmon, who is overseeing the Feed & Grain's next incarnation. The former grain elevator is now being transformed into the city's next "power source" – the Artspace Loveland Arts Campus.
In May, a Minneapolis-based program that rehabs former warehouses, hotels, storefronts, and grain elevators will open the Artspace Loveland Arts Campus. The $9 million project will feature newly constructed loft-style housing for artists and a renovated Feed & Grain, featuring studios and art-centric businesses.
The housing portion of the project will be open to artists of all media – from sculptors, to painters, to musicians. Construction is in overdrive to complete the lofts. Applications are still being accepted and a task force of community members and local artists will hold interviews to help select who will live there.
Fort Collins painter and pastel artist Doreen Thurston hopes to be one of those artists.
"I thought, well this will be a good opportunity to work with other artists, and be with other artists, which is a good thing because you get a lot of inspiration from that, at least I would," said Thurston in the studio-slash-office-slash-storage space of her two bedroom apartment.
A bike sits in one corner of the room, a wooden pastel box, easels and paint supplies in another and a laptop in yet another. In the center of the floor is Thurston's latest pastel piece. Untitled, it sits waiting to be finished, but it may have to wait a bit longer.
To afford her $900 monthly rent, Thurston works three jobs, including teaching art at a paint-your-own pottery studio and doing product demonstrations at grocery stores. That leaves little time for her to pursue her own art.
"I'm racing around trying to make income so I can live, which… it's a battle. It's been a battle," said Thurston, who is waiting to hear if her Loveland Artspace application will be approved. "I think that if I didn't have to work so hard to survive, I might have more time to make art."
The idea of living amongst other artists is appealing to her, not only for the creativity that it would inspire, but also for the affordability. The 30 units - ranging from studios to up to three-bedroom apartments - will be rented based on a sliding scale. Studios will cost between $325 and $698 a month and three-bedroom apartments will rent for, at most, $1,014.
Meanwhile, as the campus helps artists, the hope is that it will aid in economic revitalization, too.
When writer John LaFleur moved to Downtown Elgin, Illinois in 2009, he was disappointed to learn yet another of the area's historic buildings was about to be vacant. The former Sears and Roebuck site was losing Elgin Community College and thanks to the economic downturn, the downtown Elgin scene was "contracting."
Three years later, the Elgin Artspace Lofts opened in that store. Now downtown Elgin is "perpetual art… there's things going on all the time now," LaFleur said.
After the lofts opened, not only were there more arts-driven events and businesses, but there were also more businesses looking to get into the arts. Cafés began hosting open-mic nights. Bars started "painting nights" where patrons could take up a brush in one hand and a beer in the other. The Elgin Fringe Festival got its start, hosting theatrical performances all over. Downtown Elgin was once again the place to be.
"People go out to restaurants, spend money. They go by the shops. They go by the other galleries," he said. "It's just an incredible economic driver – and community driver."
Loveland is no stranger to the power of transformation, according to Susan Ison, Loveland's Cultural Services Director
“The genesis of the arts in Loveland really was when Art Castings of Colorado opened in the late '70s," Ison said. "They sort of changed or transitioned from being an automobile parts foundry to casting fine art."
Since the opening of that first fine art foundry, bronze has been big in the Sweetheart City. Called home by a wealth of nationally known sculptors, Loveland has bronze works on almost every downtown street corner. There's a park solely dedicated to sculpture.
"About 10 years ago, there were people who were predicting that when the bronze sculptors who helped to start a lot of the renaissance, so to speak, in Loveland passed on, that it would start to maybe diminish," Ison said. "But that's not what has happened at all. It's really been a lot of new people moving to town with a variety of media, a variety of ages and it's really been wonderful to see."
The Artspace Loveland Arts Campus isn’t even open yet and it’s already paying dividends.
Loveland Aleworks deliberately opened their brewery a block north of the campus, Artspace’s Felicia Harmon said. Across the railroad tracks, the artist studio complex Artworks Loveland, also moved in looking to be part of the creative scene.
As Harmon put it, "this is not a typical housing project."
Update, 06.04.2015: The Loveland Artspace Arts Campus received $862,557 from the U.S. Commerce Department to help with the renovation of the Feed & Grain building. The grant was given through the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. According to officials with Artspace, the project will create 27 jobs and save an additional 22 jobs in Loveland.
Update, 07.02.2015: Artists have began moving into the Artspace Loveland Arts Campus. For Berthoud filmmaker Caryn Sanchez, one of 30 artists moving into the artist-designated affordable housing units, it was a long time coming.
“Every time I was in Loveland, I would always drive by the building and just watch the progress,” said Sanchez
“I think the wait actually made it all the more worthwhile,” she said. “I ran into a friend of mine who was also moving in and we’re both like, ‘Man, don’t you just feel like you won the lottery?’”
Housing can be a very difficult issue for artists – especially filmmakers, Sanchez said.
“Projects can be years in between,” she said. “The money from one project, you might have to make that work for two or three years. So this was the ideal solution for me.”
Sanchez is currently working on a film on the music scene in Colorado. She plans to use the space, not only as a home, but as a place to edit, to hold production meetings, and store film equipment.