Build Art Space Equitably (BASE) Certification
In 2018 the Office of Arts & Culture launched the Build ArtSpace Equitably (BASE) certification program. The enormously successful program continues, and each year identifies a new cohort of experts in fields related to cultural space – in prior cohorts there have been architects, city planners, commercial property developers, and property brokers, as well as community organizers, artists, cultural organization leaders, artists and even a suburban mayor.
The cohort is entirely People of Color, a choice intended to reverse centuries of institutionalized racism and to aim the knowledge the program provides towards the communities that have been denied access to that knowledge.
The program provides essential information, experience, and connections in service of supporting community cultural spaces. The cohort meets regularly for a year, exploring the mechanics of both cultural community organizing and of commercial property development. Experts are brought in to explain some of the more esoteric details of capital stack financing, or of floor-to-area ratio incentives. Each meeting takes place at a cultural space in Seattle, and includes a tour and a talk from the space’ leadership (in the Age of COVID-19, all of these meetings happen virtually).
The BASE program is creating an army. It is creating an army of culturally savvy real estate developers and development-savvy arts and culture entrepreneurs. It is creating an army of professionals who live at the intersection of the arts and commercial real estate. It is creating an army whose purpose is to hack existing systems in both commercial real estate and arts & culture, to make those systems more equitable, more accessible, more comprehensible, and more functional.
The BASE program’s goal is to build capacity in communities of color to build permanent affordable cultural spaces and to extend the “onramp” to commercial real estate development further into cultural communities. It is creating an army, and that army has taken up the fight.