CONCEPT: Maram Arts Center

I spent an hour or so today doing a VERY rough draft of what an Oak Park arts center (and its budget) might look like, if we bought a small (about $400K) building. Thoughts welcome.

(Oak Park has a thriving arts scene, but this would be designed to fill in gaps; I spent a while last summer visiting and talking to the other players in the area, and I think I have a good idea of what we could do that doesn’t just overlap with their turf.)

*****

CONCEPT: Maram Arts Center

Arts spaces serve as social justice crucibles; they bridge gaps between ethnic communities and economic classes, bringing people together to build understanding in a vibrant, high-energy environment.

While Oak Park does currently have a thriving arts community, it is surprisingly lacking in some areas – writing classes, affordable co-working space, an approachable and teen-friendly artspace, and artistic collaboration with Austin, Berwyn, and other neighboring areas. We’re hoping to create a literary, visual, textile, and musical co-working makerspace in the heart of Oak Park, a vibrant cultural hub for our diverse communities to gather, making exciting art and revitalizing the area around them, serving the entire village and neighboring areas.

The arts center would have four major elements:

• Writing Residencies: Writers would engage in a competitive selection process to be awarded a 2-6 week writing residency in Oak Park. They would be provided with a private bedroom in a beautiful shared Arts & Crafts apartment (max of three residents), with common spaces geared towards quiet, productive work. Writers would initially be charged $200 / week, with some scholarship funds available. (Our current available residency spaces are not wheelchair-accessible, and are on the second floor.)

• Classroom / Meeting Space: We would teach regular writing classes in a variety of genres: memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, as well as the business of writing. Classroom / meeting space would also be available for rental, either for a flat rental fee, or a percentage of student tuition. The Brooklyn Brainery offers a model for this — accessible, community-driven, crowdsourced education: https://brooklynbrainery.com. Take a look at their quirky list of classes: https://brooklynbrainery.com/teaching. If we assume one classroom that is available for classes or rental meeting space, and charge $25 / hr for the space, and that it’s available day and evening, that could eventually be around $200 / day, perhaps $1000 / week?

• Co-working Space: We would offer a few small offices and a shared lounge area for co-working space. SuiteSpotte in Forest Park (recently opened) offers comparison pricing (https://suitespotte.com/coworking-private-offices/). In the open space, day pass for $25, 10-day pass for $175, unlimited $275 / month. Their private offices start at $675 / month. Their space is much larger, and more professional, so we wouldn’t be able to charge as much. But perhaps $300 / month for a private office, open space day pass for $15, 10-day pass for $100.

• Café / performance space: This could be two separate spaces, or combined – the back garage would make a very cool urban café / performance space, with movable stage, chairs and tables, etc. We could work towards having a once-a-month weekend event in the space, open to the public, ideally with live music, theatre, readings, food, and broad community participation. But before developing that, in the front room, you could set up a small coffee / snack station.

INCOME (optimistic, running at capacity):

Upstairs writing residencies: $2400 / month
Classroom space: $4000 / month
Co-working space: $2000 / month
Café / performance space: ??

*****

Maram would be a 501(c)3 non-profit, so the goal here is to break even, not to make a profit. (If you are interested in donating to this project, PLEASE feel free to get in touch.)