ABO Blog: Philadelphia’s Sacred and Creative Spaces Uncovered

 Through support from the Metcalfe Foundation and project leadership of Trinity St. Paul’s and Faith and the Common Good, ArtsBuild Ontario and the Toronto Arts Council travelled to Philadelphia to see how their sacred spaces are evolving to also be creative spaces. Our aim was to investigate how sacred spaces are working with arts organizations to transform their facilities into spaces that also serve the creative community.

Philadelphia was our first city stop in exploring communities outside of Toronto that are adapting or repurposing sacred spaces for artistic use. There are already some examples within the province of sacred spaces working alongside arts organizations in one shared facility. But we wanted to explore how other communities outside of Ontario are approaching this model, how they are thriving and what challenges they are facing. From site visits and meetings with both sacred space administrators and arts organizations, our goal is to better understand where our sacred/creative spaces are headed, in Toronto and across Ontario. We wanted learn how arts organizations and sacred spaces are operating in the same space, exercising respective mandates, and sustaining their practices.

It is not new news that artists and arts organization are actively using sacred spaces for their work. More and more, we are seeing arts organizations hosting performances, rehearsals, workshops and meetings in churches – the space is often available and creatives need it.

Philadelphia has a number of historic structures, including many churches that span from one to two hundred years old. The population is dense and diverse throughout the city’s neighbourhoods. As parish numbers decreased, some churches opened up their doors to other community organizations as well as local arts groups. Other church buildings have become adaptive reuse spaces for artists and arts organizations.

Philadelphia is also the home base for Arts in Sacred Places – a branch of Partners for Sacred Places that brings together artists and arts organizations that need space for rehearsals, studios, performances, offices and other functions with congregations and houses of workshop who have unused or underused space. Through past work with scared spaces in Philadelphia, Arts in Sacred Places took us to a number of churches that are operating both as functioning parishes and arts spaces. They also showed us a few adaptive reuse creative spaces of former churches that have been renovated for arts organizations and entrepreneurs.

While we saw a number of sacred spaces in Philadelphia, we wanted to share three spaces that stood out to us during the trip.

Christ Church Neighborhood House
The Neighborhood House was built by the Christ Church parish in 1915 to serve the residents of the industrial Old City. Eighty years later, local artists seeking unusual, flexible and affordable space discovered the building. Today the Neighborhood House serves cross-disciplinary performing artists, offering subsidized performance and rehearsal rentals. They have a 2000 square foot theatre, a Great Hall, sanctuary, and meeting room available to rent. They have over 50 artists and ensembles using their space each year.

Fleisher Art Memorial
Fleisher Art Memorial is made up four heritage buildings including the St. Martin’s College for Indigent Boys and Church of the Evangelists. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fleisher Art Memorial has fully adapted a church, college and two roadhouses into a nonprofit community art school. The school has studio spaces available to rent, exhibition space which displays student and community works, and a sanctuary that actively houses art programs. The sanctuary is a striking space, with the original walls, stained glass and pulpit  in place from 1884-1886.

Calvary Centre for Culture and Community
The Calvary Centre for Culture and Community is the operating body of the Calvary United Methodist Church. Located in West Philadelphia, the church has positioned itself as a community hub, serving over 5,000 members each year. The church is still active, but after congregation numbers began to decrease, they opened their doors to artists, community organizations and other religious groups to use their facility. They currently use the Chapel as rehearsal and worship space for Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups. Meanwhile, their sanctuary holds a fully erected black box theatre where their resident theatre company rehearses and performs. The rest of the facility provides ample space for rehearsals, twelve steps groups, refugee groups and so much more.

These are just three examples of sacred spaces evolving into creative spaces, and yet they remain diverse in how they operate and who they serve. The biggest commonality in all the spaces we visited in Philadelphia was the strength and sustainability that arts organizations and sacred spaces found in partnership with one another. Rather than go at it alone, we saw churches leverage the space they have by inviting artists and creatives to make a home in their facility – and in most cases, both are helping each other to fulfil a mandate to serve their communities with the arts. We also saw some great examples of former churches that have become adaptive reuse spaces for artists and creatives.

We will be on the road again to other cities outside the province to see how their sacred spaces are incorporating arts and culture within their walls. Following our research, a final report of our findings will be shared with the public.

We look forward to sharing highlights from our next trip in the New Year – stay tuned!

Announcing SpaceFinder York Region!

ArtsBuild Ontario, in partnership with the York Region Arts Council, Town of Newmarket, Town of Richmond Hill, City of Markham and Toronto and Region Conservation, are pleased to announce the upcoming launch of SpaceFinder York Region in Spring 2017.

SpaceFinder offers a large-scale solution for artists and creative spaces in York Region. Billed as an “air bnb” for artists, SpaceFinder is a free online tool for artists to search for space, and for creative spaces to promote their rentals. SpaceFinder is designed to help increase the visibility of creative space, helping artists easily find space, and helping venues promote their under-utilized rental space.

Created by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization based in New York, SpaceFinder is a first-of-its-kind online service that enables venues to market their spaces by creating listings with photos, rental rates and equipment, and uploading a digital calendar to the website. Artists and renters can search for creative workspaces that meet their needs based on location, price, amenities and up-to-date availability.

SpaceFinder first launched in Canada in November 2014 with SpaceFinder Toronto. Since introducing the tool to the city’s creative community, it has become a primary resource for artists to discover creative space. SpaceFinder is currently active in three Ontario regions, including Toronto, Hamilton and Waterloo Region. The site is also active in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, as well as 15 U.S. cities.

The York Region Arts Council has partnered with ArtsBuild Ontario to deliver this tool in addition to community partners; Town of Newmarket, Town of Richmond Hill, City of Markham, and Toronto and Region Conservation, to bring this tool to the community. SpaceFinder York Region is funded in part by the Government of Canada.

SpaceFinder York Region is accepting space listings! If you have a creative space to list, please visit spacefinderyorkregion.org.



“SpaceFinder York Region will provide creative spaces with a new avenue to promote rentals and expand audiences. We are so pleased to be working with York Region Arts Council and all our local partners in bringing this important resource to the creative community.”
Lindsay Golds, Executive Director of ArtsBuild Ontario

“One of the challenges York Region artists and arts organizations face is a perceived lack of space. Though the Region does not have an abundance of traditional arts and cultural venues, there are many alternative spaces that have the potential to be used in new and innovative ways. We are thrilled to partner with ArtsBuild Ontario and our community partners to bring SpaceFinder to York Region’s creative community. It’s a big step forward in our efforts to provide more accessible space for artists, cultural organizations and creative entrepreneurs.”
Samantha Wainberg, Executive Director, York Region Arts Council


Blog Post: Arts Day on the Hill Recap

Advocacy is an important piece of ArtsBuild’s work on behalf of arts organizations in Ontario. Last week, we joined arts advocates across the country for #ArtsDay on the Hill -a national  day of arts advocacy organized and led by the Canadian Arts Coalition. Over 160 artists, arts managers and board members of arts organizations participated, making it the largest attended Arts Day to date!


On Monday night before Arts Day, arts advocates gathered for a training session hosted by the Canadian Arts Coalition (CAC) to prepare speaking points for our meetings with MPs. The energy and passion in the room from arts supporters across our nation paired with guidance from the CAC prepared us to head into our respective meetings.

Three speaking points from the CAC were:

  1. Thank you for the arts and culture investments in Budget 2016 ($1.87 billion over five years)
  2. Short-term investments from Budget 2016, in the Cultural Spaces and in the Showcasing Canada programs, need to be extended and sustained beyond two year.
  3. The Digital Culture consultations are an essential process between government, industry, and artists – the Canadian Arts Coalition wants to ensure that artists are part of the conversation

Arts Day was an opportunity to advocate for the important work happening in arts and culture organizations in Canadian communities with these three key messages from CAC – and a large item on the list was an increased investment in the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund. Teamed with PACT, Mirvish and the Canadian League of Composers – we met with two Members of Parliament: Scott Duvall, MP of the Hamilton Mountain and Kyle Peterson, MP of Newmarket-Aurora – both supporters of the arts in their communities.


ArtsBuild spoke to all three speaking points, with emphasis on the importance of extending funding in the Canadian Cultural Spaces Fund to Phase 2 of the Government of Canada’s Infrastructure plan. We stressed that the extension needs to be included in Budget 2017, so that arts organizations can begin feasibility studies on their capital projects.

Arts Day was an exciting and essential initiative to participate in – especially since this year’s messaging tied closely to the advocacy work of ArtsBuild. We would like to thank the Canadian Arts Coalition for organizing this important and vital day of advocacy for arts and culture!

Media Release: SpaceFinder launches in Waterloo at Amplify 2016

For immediate release: Kitchener, ON, Oct. 19, 2016:  ArtsBuild Ontario is pleased to announce the launch of SpaceFinder Waterloo Region to artists and creative spaces in the City of Waterloo on Oct. 26, 2016 at Amplify – a full day summit, organized by the City of Waterloo, that celebrates creativity and innovation in the region.

SpaceFinder offers a large-scale solution for artists and creative spaces for Waterloo’s creative community. Billed as an “Air BnB” for artists, SpaceFinder is a free online tool for artists to search for space, and for creative spaces to promote their rentals. SpaceFinder is designed to help increase the visibility of creative space, helping artists easily find space, and helping venues promote their under-utilized rental space.  And unlike other rental sites, users do not pay any booking or search fees to use SpaceFinder Waterloo Region.

Created by Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization based in New York, SpaceFinder is a first-of-its-kind online service that enables venues to market their spaces by creating listings with photos, rental rates and equipment, and uploading a digital calendar to the website. Artists and renters can search for creative workspaces that meet their needs based on location, price, amenities and up-to-date availability. ArtsBuild has partnered with the City of Kitchener, City of Waterloo, City of Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo, to bring this tool to the community.

ArtsBuild is leading the expansion of SpaceFinder across Canada with local leaders where the tool is currently active, including Toronto and Hamilton, as well as British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba – Waterloo Region is the first region to offer SpaceFinder to its creative community. SpaceFinder is also offered in 15 U.S. cities. SpaceFinder Waterloo Region is funded in part by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Government of Canada.

SpaceFinder Waterloo Region officially launches to artists in Waterloo on Oct. 26 at Creative Waterloo’s Amplify 2016. Hosted by SpaceFinder Waterloo Region community partners, Amplify provides a key opportunity for the creative community to learn about SpaceFinder as a free resource for finding and promoting alternative space. ArtsBuild will be presenting SpaceFinder at 4:25pm during a Peer-to-Peer session at Amplify under the topic of innovation at the day long event.


“SpaceFinder Waterloo Region provides artists and cultural organizations with new possibilities for finding creative space in our community. We are so pleased to be working with our local partners at the City of Waterloo in brining this important resource to our creative community.”
Lindsay Golds, Executive Director,ArtsBuild Ontario

 “It’s wonderful to see SpaceFinder right here in Waterloo Region! This matchmaking tool will foster cultural connections and I look forward to this creative approach having a positive impact on our community for many years.”
Dave Jaworsky, Waterloo Mayor

 “SpaceFinder Waterloo Region is a great resource for our community.  It makes finding, renting or sharing a creative space easier for everyone.  I am impressed by the number and variety of spaces that have already been listed, and look forward to seeing the options grow as the tool is launched.”
Kate Hagerman, Cultural Heritage Specialist, Region of Waterloo

About ArtsBuild Ontario: 

ArtsBuild Ontario is the only organization in Ontario dedicated to realizing long-term solutions for building, managing and financing the sustainable arts facilities needed in Ontario communities. ArtsBuild provides tools, training and resources that support the development of sustainable creative spaces such as theatres, galleries, concert halls, museums and other arts facilities. www.artsbuildontario.ca


Media Contact:

Alex Glass
Program Manager, ArtsBuild Ontario
Office: 519.880.3670 ext 103
Mobile: 226.792.4849

New on the blog: ArtsBuild ventures to Sudbury

SudburyWe ventured to the north of the province to attend the Art Gallery of Sudbury’s “How to Purpose Build a ‘Category A’ Museum.” This was a great opportunity for gallery stakeholders and community organizations to understand what a “Category A” museum is and what that might look like for Greater Sudbury’s future art gallery. The Sudbury Public Library and gallery are joining forces to work together on building a new facility, which city council has made a priority project.  The new facility would also put the Art Gallery of Sudbury in a “Category A” designation.

The session featured three guest speakers: Lisa Daniels from Alix Gallery in Sarnia, Simon Lambert from the Canadian Conservation Institute and Alexandra Badzak from the Ottawa Art Gallery. Lisa and Alexandra spoke to their own successes and challenges they faced in their recent capital projects while Simon touched on the importance of storage requirements for a “Category A” museum.

But before we recap the session, you might be wondering what is a “Category A” museum?

The term comes from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Designation of Institutions of and Public Authorities criteria for organizations to access tax incentives and grants. Institutions such as museums, public art galleries, archives and libraries fall under this designation. Plus, a “category A” museum must have unlimited designation from one of the following groups: Objects recovered from the soil or waters of Canada, objects of material ethnographic culture, military objects, objects of applied and decorative arts, objects of fine arts, scientific or technological objects, archival material and musical instruments.

Simon Lambert’s presentation focused on the requirements for movable cultural property for a “Category A” museum. Careful consideration towards storage was a key focus point when arts organizations arrive at the design phase of their building projects. On average, a museum’s collection is 98% in storage at any given time, so it is essential to have the right space reserved or created for this purpose. There are tons more great aspects to consider when designing exhibition space too –read about the Canadian Conservation Institute’s requirements and services!

Alix Gallery in Sarnia – looking back on their capital build

ALIX Art GalleryExecutive Director Lisa Daniels from Alix Gallery in Sarnia offered wisdom from the gallery’s transformation into a “Category A” purpose-built gallery. The gallery first opened its doors to patrons in 1961 as the Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery. The gallery outgrew the space and reclaimed The Thom Building (one of downtown Sarnia’s historically and socially significant buildings) to create a purpose- built facility to house a permanent collection and display premiere exhibitions. The building’s gorgeous facade has been retained and restored back its historically accurate condition. Inside, the new facility features world-class equipment and regulatory systems to maintain environmental controls necessitated by world-class artworks.

Lisa’s most significant take away for an organization starting a new build was to deliver on your promises. The classic saying goes “build it and they will come,” but that was not a trap the new gallery was about to fall into. The gallery used marketing and relevant programming to draw patrons to the remarkable new space. They also hosted a rare exhibition shortly after opening which garnered 20,000 visitors; two times their initial goal. This capital project is also a great example of how an arts organization can balance resources during the building phase. While construction work was being completed for the new purpose- built arts facility, Alix Gallery staff brought programming to the community in public spaces.

The Ottawa Art Gallery – partnerships and shared goals
OAG_EXPANSIONThe Ottawa Art Gallery is breaking new ground when it comes to partnerships and cultural institutions with their current building project. Director and CEO Alexandra Badzak shared her goals and current project status on their new “Category A” gallery. This build has been a long time coming, with feasibility studies dating back to 2004 for the new facility. The expansion of the gallery and Arts Court Redevelopment project are part of the City of Ottawa’s downtown revitalization plan. The gallery will expand by 80,000 feet on five floors, featuring a multidisciplinary screening space that will be home to the Canadian Film Institute.

Alexandra highlights that having a business plan and storytelling are key skills for partnership – which remains at the core of the gallery’s expansion. The new space will include a hotel and condo, all sharing the same goal for this city block dedicated to arts and culture. The City of Ottawa led the process of bringing in other players for the expansion, but the gallery is harnessing the densification of Arts Court and the area of their future home. It is located in the cultural core of downtown Ottawa right beside the University of Ottawa. Alexandra emphasized how important accessibility to culture will be in this space and that they will remain free for all to visit.

The information session was an excellent way for patrons, board members and staff to compare plans for the Art Gallery of Sudbury with other capital projects around the province – with an emphasis on making their space a “Category A” facility. We are excited to hear more about the upcoming project plans for the gallery and library!