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Art Place initiative aims to help St. Louis artists buy homes and build wealth

 The St. Louis Art Place Initiative is making more affordable houses available to artists who want to buy homes in the city’s Gravois Park neighborhood.
St. Louis Art Place Initiative
The St. Louis Art Place Initiative is making more affordable houses available to artists who want to buy homes in the city’s Gravois Park neighborhood. The group intends to build 16 more homes.

St. Louis-based artists who want to buy a house have affordable options built with them in mind thanks to a new round of homeowner applications from the St. Louis Art Place Initiative.

The initiative aims to provide affordable housing to artists in the Gravois Park neighborhood. Accepted artists pay $1,000 toward a down payment while the initiative pays the remaining initial cost. Artists will then pay about $750 to $850 a month to cover the mortgage plus taxes and insurance.

The initiative is intended to help local artists build generational wealth through homeownership, St. Louis Art Place Initiative Co-Director Kaveh Razani said.

“We don't often think of the struggles that individuals go through to be artists,” Razani said. “We get to appreciate and consume and patronize their art, but a lot of times we don't recognize that the individuals that create that work, this massive cultural wealth for our region are living in the margins.”

Applications open July 15 and close Aug. 18. The initiative already has selected six artists for the program, and two have moved into their homes, he said.

The initiative launched in 2019 after residents called for more affordable housing during a community planning process led by the Dutchtown South Community Corporation. Razani said neighborhood organizations were worried that artists would be displaced as housing prices started to increase.

The art place initiative secured 24 land parcels from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority and works in partnership with Dutchtown South Community Corporation, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Incarnate Word Foundation and the Regional Arts Commission. Habitat for Humanity-St. Louis builds and renovates houses and teaches homeowners how to care for their houses.

Initiative leaders look at an applicant’s housing needs, artistic practice and how connected they are to the neighborhood. Razani said leaders focused on artists near or in the Gravois Park neighborhood but this year hope to expand their outreach to artists outside the area.

The program has been a great way to keep St. Louis artists in their neighborhoods, said Stan Chisholm, a musician and visual artist who goes by the name 18andCounting.

“Just having the space to stretch out in that and not having the concerns of when I’ll have to leave,” said Chisholm, who closed on his home in 2021. “It’s still kind of growing on me, that concept of permanence.”

If a homeowner decides to move, the program ensures the owner lets the land trust know, and an application process begins to find another artist to purchase the property from him.

Razani said the initiative is considering expanding its efforts into artist residency programs, community arts galleries and greenspaces.

“Our success is something that's just going to continue to compound and grow stronger,” Razani said. “This is a very exciting time for us, we're looking to kind of continue to do what we're doing in Gravois Park and explore whether this model makes sense elsewhere outside of the south side.”

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.