Artist Cooperatives: Use and Benefits

The most common of artist cooperatives serve as gallery space for its visual artists; some specify the type of visual art, such as photography or arts and crafts. Other cooperatives have been formed in other disciplines, such as music, improvisational art, theatre, even storytelling. In all cases, the stakeholders work collectively to promote and market their art.

Another fairly common use of an artists’ cooperative is the training of students. Classes, workshops, and demonstrations are regular parts of the periodic, weekly activity in the cooperative’s space; the revenues generated by these activities provide support for basic operating expenses, such as rent and utilities. Most cooperatives also serve as a source of information about the art discipline offering lectures and demonstrations on a regular basis, as well as special shows featuring student or guest work.

Successful artist cooperatives have found that serving as a community-based entity has additional benefits. If space allows, they offer it for social gatherings and/or meetings of nonprofit and/or community-based organizations. If size and accommodations allow, rental income for larger gatherings helps to sustain the cooperative. If the space doesn’t warrant a rental fee, these activities still bring potential new customers into the artists’ space.

Artist-run spaces have been recognized as a factor in urban regeneration. This effect was particularly strong in Glasgow, where the city won the accolade 'European Capital of Culture' in 1990, largely due to its large number of artist-run exhibition spaces and galleries. Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist coined the term "The Glasgow Miracle" to describe this.

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