The Salem Arts Building, 155 Liberty Street, is on its way to becoming what landlord Mike Tevis calls, “LIVING and WORKING space for artists, photographers, startups and entrepreneurs.”
In collaboration with new building manager and local artist/metal smith Helen Nute Wiens, Tevis intends the building to be “a gathering spot… the downtown Salem hub of creative minds, young and old.”
The project began as Tevis’ dream when he bought the building eight years ago and gave it its name. It has six floors full of studio and living space, and tenants already include artists such as Wiens, who’s worked from there for four years. Wiens, who has been active on non-profit art boards Keizer Art Association and Artists in Action, editor of Salem Weekly Art Canvas, and is a founding member of artist cooperative Red Raven Art Gallery, says Tevis’ recent invitation to join the vision as building manager and liaison with local artists thrilled her.
“When Mike asked if I would work with him on this project, I really felt I could bring something useful to the table…. I get to share this incredibly cool and unique project with the community. For me, it’s a wonderful opportunity – getting the chance to work on a project that has the potential to bring so much to downtown Salem. With my love of downtown, our art community, and belief in the project, it was easy to jump in with both feet. I was so excited I hardly slept the first week. I just hit the ground running.”
The second floor, which Tevis calls, “an artist hive,” will be the home of an art collective, 24 studio spaces of varying sizes with many shared amenities like a common area for teaching or meetings, a kiln and internet. The result is space that struggling artists can afford downtown.
Wiens says that much of that market is out of the reach of local artists, especially studios that are clean, attractive and well maintained; finding a “space within their budget is the first hurdle; once liability insurance and downtown parking tax is figured in, the once “affordable” space is no longer within budget.”
The collective will mean financial relief for these creative people. “Having the 24 studios under a common collective enables us to cover the downtown parking tax and commercial liability – meaning that the affordable space actually IS affordable,” says Wiens.
The first tenant lease Wiens secured was DIY Studio, the creative re-use nonprofit who set up temporary shop in Salem Center several months ago. Jessica Ramey of DIY Studio says the organization, a 501 (c)(3) had already begun a search for a new home when it discovered that Salem Arts Building might be a possibility.
“We toured the building and realized that both of us have similar goals,” Ramey says, “We both want to be an arts destination for Salem.” DIY Studio met with Tevis and Ramey reports “He liked our mission of diverting waste and turning it into art, as well as our space made from pallets, wooden spools and reclaimed paint. He even purchased a belt made by from upcycled bike tire before he left.”
Once established in their new location, DIY Studio will continue to offer reclaimed materials for arts and crafts, community upcycled art, and educational programs and events. The group feels the new location will benefit them in more than one way. In addition to sharing a creative atmosphere with other artists, “We’ll be in a more central location downtown,” Ramey says, “This will allow DIY Studio to engage with First Wednesday participants and partner with downtown businesses.”
Other arts non-profits will benefit from the Salem Arts Building as well, as it is intended to provide space for special exhibits, receptions, and meetings. Already planned is a November photography exhibition with the Salem Photo League, “Everyday Heroes,” documenting locals whose work and passion enrich the Willamette Valley, and in December, the annual “Something Red” Artists in Action show, including an awards reception on the Mezzanine level. The vision encompasses what Wiens calls, “a true arts building with an art collective, community outreach, arts education and partnerships… The potential of our building is enormous, a catalyst to bring more artists and creative individuals to downtown Salem.
As fall becomes winter in Salem, Mike Tevis seems to be finally realizing his original goal for the building, to become a thriving collaboration of local artists, entrepreneurs, retailers, photographers and business owners.
“There is nothing like this development in the mid-valley!” Wiens says, as she invites artists from the region to become part of the Arts Building vision.
“This is truly unique in our area…the potential of our building is enormous – a catalyst to bring more artists and creative individuals to downtown Salem.”