One recent Friday, Cathryn Vandenbrink, the regional director for Artspace, got a call that all the children were making Christmas decorations for the exterior of the Pioneer Square...

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One recent Friday, Cathryn Vandenbrink, the regional director for Artspace, got a call that all the children were making Christmas decorations for the exterior of the Pioneer Square building where they lived.

“It was so wonderful,” she said. “I just loved it.”

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That was a triumph because the 16 children had been living in the Tashiro Kaplan Artist Lofts in Seattle only since June 1.

In the building are dancers, actors, musicians, painters, photographers, sculptors and writers, including nine families, Vandenbrink said.

“It’s different from regular housing. These are people who are living and working in their spaces 24 hours a day. There are people coming and going all the time,” Vandenbrink said. “They have potlucks almost every week in the building. It’s a strong sense of community.”

The lofts are for people at or below 60 percent of the area’s median income. The spaces are managed by Artspace, a Minneapolis

based nonprofit real-estate developer.

Whether it is Minneapolis’ warehouse district or a former molasses factory in St. Paul, Minn., Artspace is transforming America’s downtowns. The group has created civic art spaces in Reno, Nev.; Galveston, Texas; Pittsburgh; Portland; and other cities.

It may come to Everett, a city of nearly 100,000 people that’s well-populated with artists.

The idea of a living/working arts center appeals to Janet Foley, a Snohomish artist working in fused glass. For years, she had worked alone on her art.

“Through the Arts Council of Snohomish County, I made friends, and we began to work collaboratively together. That gave me the confidence to take my own work further.”

Foley became an artist in residence in the Edmonds School District last year, teaching nearly 500 children. She also teaches at arts facilities.

“My business has quadrupled in a year,” she said.

That doesn’t surprise the folks at Artspace, which specializes in facilities that offer a mixture of arts uses.

The group’s vice president, Chris Velasco, was invited to Everett and Lynnwood this month to meet artists, business people and local leaders to discuss a regional arts center.

More than 130 people attended Velasco’s recent presentation at the Everett Events Conference Center. Diana Dollar, the vice president of community development for the Snohomish County Economic Development Council, called it “the first conversation we will be having of many more regarding what needs to be in a space to help make the arts community really thrive.”

Dollar said such a place would include production areas for welding, printmaking, photography, pottery, glass and other arts.

“This is something the arts community has to define,” she said. “We want to see it as providing some performing space, if possible.”

Dollar also mentioned related services that could help artists make their art into business.

Velasco will assess an Everett project’s feasibility, said Andrew Commers, the associate project manager of Artspace. “Then comes the market and concept plan.”

Wendy Holmes, the vice president of resource development with Artspace, said: “We have a lot of criterion before evaluating. We often purchase from city or county agencies. Building stock is important but not critical. Housing funds from state and city are important.”

In New York’s trendy SoHo district in the 1950s and 1960s, artists developed lofts and studios in warehouses and industrial spaces. Once they became gentrified, the artists were forced out by market conditions. They called it the SoHo syndrome.

“Artists move in; rents go up; artists go out,” Velasco said.

Artspace was created in 1979 as a nonprofit arts-advocacy agency, and some years later, the company went into property development. Its mission is “to create, foster and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations,” Velasco said.

“Artspace puts the financing and managing in place to keep them in good condition and guarantee that this space will be affordable in a 50- and 90-year span,” Holmes said.

Projects take about three to five years to develop. After studying demographics, the board approves a document to build, own and operate a multiuse arts facility.

Snohomish glass artist Foley, who attended Velasco’s presentation in Everett, supports the project.

“I know what the arts can do for a city,” Foley said.

“And I know the power of other artists just being around — someone to do welding, to do table stands — those are the kinds of things that you can feed off of. That goes for any artist. When you’re in a living arts center, they’re there.”

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com