Building a New & Affordable Arts Community

Monterey County – "I don't have a studio, so my studio is either my car or wherever I land," said Sue Ann Hillyer, Art Director of the Community Partnership for Youth. Her problem is not unique among artists in Monterey County.
Art studios at any price are hard to find in the area. Many artists use garages or rooms in their homes. And while the Pacific Grove Art Center has affordable studios in the $200 and $300 range, it also a waiting list that is seven years long.
"The market has changed a lot in the last 15, 20 years in Monterey County and artists are moving. And there's a legacy in this county of it being an artist haven from Big Sur all the way up to Carmel to Pacific Grove all the way up. And so if we don't start figuring out a way to keep artists here, this will no longer be an artists' haven," said Denese Sanders with Arts Habitat. This non-profit organization is charged with creating a place for creating art, and it plans to fulfill that mission at East Garrison. East Garrison is a planned community under construction in the former Fort Ord Military Base. It will include an arts district with 65 affordable live/work studios. The first won't be available until 2010, but Arts Habitat hopes it can start building a sense of community now.
Sanders has been working with Monterey High art students and other artists in the region on a community project called Houses Art. They're all painting large canvases cut in the shape of houses. Each reflects what home and community means to the artist.
The canvases will go on display Sunday, March 2nd to draw attention to the future East Garrison arts community. And while most of the high school students working on this project are years away from living on their own, they are still well aware of the need for what East Garrison promises. "I don't know if I will be able to live here. Having a job that I'd be able to afford it, I think you have to be either in real estate or really wealthy to live here most of the time. Or else like you're working three jobs in order to pay your rent, so that's why I hope that I'll have an affordable house here," said 15-year-old Ali Davi.
East Garrison plans include selling some affordable homes in addition to offering the live/work rental studios. Sue Ann Hillyer hopes she'll be able to move her art supplies out of her car and finally have a studio to call her own. "I would love to be able to live there," said Hillyer. "They talk about it being affordable housing and so I'm hoping that their interpretation or the developers interpretation of affordable housing matches what artists' interpretation of affordable housing is." Price points for East Garrisson have not been set.
The Houses Art Project goes on display Sunday, March 2nd from 3:00 to 6:00pm at the Hayes Community Center at 826 Corregidor Road in Seaside.