In the gig economy, most artists are independent contractors, an economic reality that can shut them out of such basic civil interactions as the housing market: Without a steady paycheck, how does a painter or actor or musician – or anyone else in a temporary-contract or piecework job – persuade a bank to approve a loan so she can buy a house? It’s a problem accentuated in Portland and cities like it by a white-hot real-estate market that can leave even modest spaces for living and work out of economic reach.
ARTSWATCH FOCUS: ARTS & SPACES
Are there creative ways for creative people to solve one of the basic challenges of urban living? Two Portland theater professionals – the talented sound designer Shareth Patel and his wife, marketer/administrator/stage manager Corinne Lowenthal Patel – have come up with a plan to buy the Southeast Portland house they’re living in. It involves a relatively little-known process called a bank statement loan, which is particularly structured for self-employed borrowers. Tonight – Monday, Aug. 19 – they’re throwing a modern-day version of a rent party to help them raise the $60,000 they need in their next bank statement to ensure the loan goes through. And they’re doing it with a little help from a lot of their friends.
Here are the details. The party, which has a Facebook page, Save the Tardis: Housing for Artists, will take over the Portland Playhouse complex at 602 N.E. Prescott St. from 6 to about 9 p.m. (“Tardis” is the name of the house.) It’ll be what Corinne Patel calls “a free-flowing event,” with beer and wine and conversation and, crucially, a fair amount of entertainment in short shots from an impressive list of performers around town: emcee Jennifer Lanier, John San Nicholas, both Patels, Susannah Mars, Kate Mura, Noah Misak, Andy Haftkowycz, and bookkeeper/actor Megan Murphy Ruckman, who’ll answer some financial questions. There might be surprise guests, too – and yes, there’ll be an ongoing money pitch.
Part of the package is that the house is a duplex, with a 1,100-square-foot separate unit that the Patels hope to eventually use as affordable housing for three or four fellow artists. Its location near late-running bus lines is a plus for working artists, Corrine Patel believes: With the real estate market pushing people farther from the city core in search of affordable housing, she knows theater people who’ve had to turn down jobs because transit schedules don’t allow them to get back home after shows.
This is just one attempt by two people to come to grips with the realities of housing in Portland. The Patels are hoping what they’re doing might provide a model for other artists to explore. Other people will find other paths. It’ll be interesting to see how it all works, because a city that stakes its reputation on its creative economy has to find ways for its creative workers to actually make a living and put down roots.
EXPANSION PLANS AT BROADWAY ROSE
OF COURSE, THEATERS NEED HOMES, TOO, and the real estate market has had Portland companies in as much of a scramble as individual artists for living and studio space. Some have consolidated and improved existing spaces (Portland Playhouse fits that description with its recently opened annex space). North Portland’s Twilight Theatre Company has done upgrades thanks in part to a grant from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Artists Repertory Theatre has swung a complex real-estate deal to sell off half of its property to a high-rise developer, a move that helps the theater climb out of a deep financial hole but also sends it scrambling for the next couple of seasons for alternative performing spaces. In the coming season it’ll do a couple of shows (one a co-production with PCS) at Portland Center Stage’s home in The Armory, plus Imago Theatre, the Tiffany Center, PSU’s Lincoln Hall, and Portland Opera’s small studio theater. The construction project is also sending Profile Theatre, a resident company at Artists Rep, onto the road, with shows scheduled at Imago, Lincoln Hall, and Portland Playhouse.
Meanwhile, in Tigard, the musical-theater specialists of Broadway Rose Theatre Company, which is in the midst of a sold-out production of the hit Footloose, have launched a $3 million upgrade-and-expansion campaign, with $1 million already pledged. “We are ideally positioned to launch this next stage with a robust base of loyal and enthusiastic supporters, long-term relationships with community leaders, a healthy, debt-free financial standing; a proven record of responsible stewardship of resources, and a strong, stable staff,” the company announced in a press release. “In addition, we have signed a new lease with the Tigard Tualatin School District to ensure our home for decades to come.”
The upgrades will include new studio space for rehearsals, camps, workshops, and other events; a costume shop and enlarged scenic shop under one roof; and new office spaces. If all goes as planned, the new spaces will have a grand opening in October 2020. “We’ve reached capacity with our current space,” artistic director Sharon Maroney said in the release. “This expansion will build infrastructure to support our artistic vision, and increase the possibilities of adding programming and hosting more community groups.”