Survey Links Artists to Theatre

uwmFor a renewed Sherman Theatre to thrive, artists need to be involved every step of the way. They could use the space as a studio, a performing arts center, or both. Recently, our partners at the UWM Center for Economic Development conducted a study of artists and arts organizations in Milwaukee to gauge their interest in the Sherman Theatre project.

Based on survey responses, it is clear that there is demand for arts space in Milwaukee. The need is reflected in the responses from artists and arts organizations alike. Many artists work from home due to cost constraints. Many arts organizations rent their facilities but have an interest in considering alternative space. The main considerations in the selection of arts space are cost and location. It is recommended that the stakeholders generate public awareness of the Sherman Theater and offer regular tours to familiarize people with the location.

In general, respondents have a particular interest in performing arts space and studio space. It is important that the space have certain features in order to provide an attractive option to artists. The features cited are both tangible and intangible. For instance, it is very important to artists to work in proximity to other artists. The physical features of the space are also very important, as evidenced by the number of respondents who need natural light and windows.

What follows is a summary of the survey’s findings, which are very important as the Sherman Theater stakeholders develop design ideas for the rehabilitated Sherman Theater.

Artist Profile

The most common type of art practiced by survey respondents are: performing arts, painting, and visual arts/photography. Most respondents practice their art on a full-time basis.

Current Studio

Most respondents have studio space at home. 30% of respondents rent studio space. Of these, the majority have studio space within 10 miles of home. The vast majority of respondents (80%) do not share the cost of rent. 36% of individual artists spend less than $500 per month on rent. 60% pay less than $500 per month. Cost is the primary reason why 57% of respondents do not rent space.

Ideal Studio

The survey revealed a significant level of interest in rental of arts spaces, provided the space has certain features. For both artists and arts organizations, the most important features of an arts space are price, location and proximity to other artists. While all 4 types of space have significant interest, studio space is in highest demand from individual artists while performance and black box space are in highest demand from arts organizations. The most common needs in an arts space are as follows (listed in order of frequency):

  • Light/Natural light/Windows
  • Storage space
  • High speed internet
  • Safe environment/security
  • Sinks
  • Meeting rooms
  • Quiet space
  • Parking

Thoughts on the Sherman Theatre

Half of the respondents are unfamiliar with the Sherman Theater. A handful requested a tour of the facility. More awareness of this project needs to be generated. There is a strong interest in community movie theaters. Some caution was expressed at the location of a movie theater at the Sherman Theater location.

Crossing Hurdles

Nearly all respondents are able to offer services in exchange for access to arts space. Most of the respondents can offer art classes and/or can serve as volunteer at facility events.The greatest challenges faced by the artists are day-to-day financial challenges; lack of access to affordable space for studio, exhibition and performance; marketing challenges. The most important resources to the artists’ careers are interaction with other artists, access to studio space and professional development opportunities.

Arts Organizations

Half of the arts organizations rent their space. Eighty percent of the arts organizations operate out of a permanent location. Arts organizations were unanimous in selecting the “right price” as the most important factor in the success of a multi-purpose arts facility. A link to management services such as a booking agent is of least importance to the arts organizations.


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