Without access to a studio, Chris Hardy settles in his bedroom closet with his guitar when he wants to record voice-overs or an album.
He ignores the shirts and pants hovering around him and focuses on the music. Still, a real booth with some breathing room and a sound system would be nice.
“The clothing hanging all around me is the soundproof system,” said Hardy, an Augusta-based musician and songwriter. “It doesn’t work too well.”
Finding creative work and living space can be a challenge for artists in Augusta, but a fledgling development plan could bring more resources if enough interest is shown. Artspace, a nonprofit real estate development company, launched an online survey for the Augusta area Wednesday meant to gauge what kind of needs local artists have and what they’d like to see built in the city.
It’s the first step before officials would develop a physical and financial strategy to build affordable housing and work spaces.
Artspace representatives, government officials and several local agencies held a launch event at the Old Academy of Richmond County building Wednesday with cocktails and conversation meant to bring the community together around the idea.
“By everybody standing in the room together, you’re expressing your desire to be a part of something big,” Matt Kwatinetz of the Augusta Regional Collaboration Project said to the crowd of about 200. “I ask you hold true to that beyond this launch event.”
Artspace first came to Augusta in April 2012 when representatives toured buildings that could be turned into work or living spaces.
They returned in March to prepare for the survey launch and to meet with government officials and city leaders about the community’s art culture, Artspace project manager Joe Butler said.
Artspace, has completed 32 arts facilities in 13 states and has provided more than 1,000 apartments for artists and their families.
The organization has turned a historic hospital in Texas into a $6.3 million loft with living and work spaces and took over an abandoned construction project in Seattle and finished it into a building with apartments, galleries and work areas.
Almost 60 percent of the projects’ budgets come from federal low-income housing tax credits, while other public funding or philanthropic support covers other costs.
The living spaces are designed for artists who meet the low-income requirements, have an established body of work, are seriously committed to the arts and who make good neighbors, according Roy Close, the vice president of special projects.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said even nonartists have a vested interest in expanding the arts community.
Copenhaver said before the Starbucks manufacturing plant broke ground in Augusta last summer, the city was competing with Florence, S.C., to win the company’s interest. What tipped the scale in Augusta’s favor was the community’s budding art scene, which Copenhaver said is a must-have for new industry.
“There’s a direct correlation between the success of city’s arts and culture and the incoming development of businesses,” Copenhaver said. “This (Artspace project) would lead to more businesses coming in and developing here.”
Butler said the local survey will stay live until June 19, and results will be released in September. If the community asks for it, Artspace could start developing a financial and viability plan and identify which buildings could be utilized for projects in the fall.
Nothing, however, is for certain and Butler said no development will be forced.
“If we are not the right fit, we will thank you for your time and find what’s right for you,” Butler said.