A Madison nonprofit arts organization that could boost the availability of artist studio space on the near east side wants to move into a new facility built next to the new Capital East parking garage.

On Monday, Madison’s Finance Committee recommended leasing a two-story structure located next to the garage at 111 S. Livingston St. and giving a $500,000 grant to the Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL).

The nonprofit opened in late 2015 at 2021 Winnebago St., where it hosts art exhibitions, poetry readings and workshops in addition to offering educational programs and cultural outreach projects. If approved by the City Council, ALL hopes to expand its work fostering the artistic growth of contemporary visual, literary and performing artists

Right now, ALL literary arts director Rita Mae Reese said the nonprofit’s work has outgrown the space, reflecting the desire from the community for more of it.

“Madison is just really hungry for this type of programming,” Reese said. 

ALL founder Jolynne Roorda said the tight quarters have been a “challenge and sometimes a limitation.” She described artists adjusting their projects to accommodate each other, and students being cautious while making art in the middle of an exhibition. 

“Having a larger space means that we can create dedicated areas for our diverse programs, giving artists more freedom and space in which to work, while still having that proximity to each other that sparks connections,” Roorda said. 

The Arts + Literature Laboratory is currently located 2012 Winnebago St. The nonprofit is hoping to move to a building owned by the Parking Utility located next to the South Livingston Street parking garage.M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL

ALL looks to build dedicated education studios, classrooms and between four and five permanently affordable private and shared studio space on the second floor — part of ALL’s dream from the beginning, Reese said.

“This shows this is what it’s like to be a working artist,” Reese said. “I think that’s really powerful.”

For the first floor, the nonprofit wants to include public exhibition, gallery and performance spaces. These would double the size and height of the current spaces, Roorda said. ALL’s plans would need to be approved by the city before starting construction.

If approved, ALL would lease the property for 20 years. ALL could renew its lease for five-year terms if it is still in good standing with the city under the terms of the lease.

The recommended resolution would also authorize a $500,000 grant to assist with building out the unfinished space.The nonprofit would pay the city back through its lease payments, which would start at $4,900 per month and increase to $10,114 by the end of the lease term. Repaying the full amount is expected to take about seven years.

Roorda said ALL is working with architects and contractors to finalize the construction budget but anticipates needing to raise another $500,000 to build out the space.

“This will be done in phases, and we will also be raising funds to support operating expenses and endowment to help ensure the long-term sustainability of our programming,” Roorda said. 

Reese said the nonprofit is dedicated to being “sustainable” and “financially viable.” 

City Economic Development Director Matt Mikolajewski said providing the grant will help ALL develop the space and will enhance a city asset. Assisting ALL’s move to the neighborhood would also address a city priority of maintaining and building artist space, Mikolajewski said.

“We believe this partnership with ALL will allow them to provide some lower cost studio space, so we can hopefully retain some of those artists in this neighborhood,” Mikolajewski said.

In 2017, the city conducted a request for proposal process seeking tenants for 9,910-square-feet of commercial space facing the 800 block of East Washington Avenue. The structure stands on its own but is owned by the Parking Utility.

Mikolajewski said the process prioritized arts-based organizations and ventures that did not have an emphasis on alcohol. ALL was selected over proposals for office space for a real estate company and a bar and entertainment venue.

Prior to the near east side garage opening in December 2018, the city had not built a new parking facility since it opened the Overture Center ramp in 1984. The city wanted to include a commercial element to the project as a way of energizing the area.

“It’s kind of becoming a best practice that you want to create some activity within the building along with the parking,” Mikolajewski said.

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