'Bittersweet' Feelings as Artspace Lofts Opens in Mesa Instead of Phoenix

By: Phoenix News Times 

Artist Katharine Leigh Simpson welcomed a steady stream of visitors during the official grand opening celebration for Mesa Artspace Lofts on January 23. It’s the first Arizona location for Artspace Projects, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that develops art spaces, including artist live/work housing. Simpson leases one of 50 units, where her creative flourishes infuse everything from the kitchen to the bathroom. “It’s important to have your own space,” she says.

Before moving to Mesa, she lived with family and had a separate studio at Bentley Projects. Now, she can work and live in one place, which means more time for art-making. She’s already created an art installation for the Mesa Artspace Lofts courtyard, comprising several large-scale crystal-shaped sculptures she can set to glow as nightfall descends. Other pieces, from large-scale drawings to paper dresses, dot the interior of her one-bedroom apartment.

Some artists have studio apartments, and others have up to three bedrooms. Christine Cassano chose a two bedroom, and uses her small garage for fabrication. The garages were awarded by lottery, so not every artist has one. It’s a big change for Cassano, who used to work inside a small section of a Phoenix warehouse space shared with other artists.

“It’s really bittersweet being here, because I know Phoenix passed on this opportunity,” she says. Years ago, Artspace Projects considered bringing artist live/work spaces to Phoenix, but it never happened. “I’m really sad that I can’t be doing this in Phoenix.”

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