Cohousing for Artists [was Cohousing for Senior Artists - Request from CNN
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:13:18 -0700 (PDT)
> On Mar 12, 2017, at 4:00 AM, Raines Cohen <rc3-coho-L [at]> wrote:
>  The state provided more than $15
> million in affordable-housing finance, including infrastructure loans that
> took much longer than planned to pay back because of slow sales of the
> market-rate lots.

Expecting to find very many artists who can afford market rate homes anywhere 
is overly optimistic. And then finding those who want to take on a community 
responsibility aside from their work cuts that percentage down by maybe 90%. 
It’s a lonely hill.

I had artist friends in NYC who bought buildings together in Soho when it was 
still abandoned factories in the 1960s. While there are many success 
stories—getting rich and moving—there were also many failures. I suspect the 
successes were the result of spouses who were not artists and had income from 
law and finance.

One of my friends bought a 4 story building with each artist having a floor. 
The furnace was coal burning — in the 1980s. She said she would never live with 
artists again. They would rather sleep or work than go to the basement and 
shovel coal, even when having a coal furnace allowed them to paint even if they 
sold nothing. They worked wrapped in a blanket like a Greek sculpture before 
they would go to the basement to produce heat.

I’m not being negative or hyper-critical. I know artists. They more than most 
people have priorities. It sounds good on paper to live in an arts-rich 
community but the infra-structure will suffer if it depends on artists to 
organize and maintain it. 

We had a woman who withdrew before move-in because we didn’t have two car 
garages, or even one car garages. A true suburbanite dependent on car culture? 
No, an artist who made larger than life puppets. She knew her priorities.

Probably better to think in terms of the communities where there are affordable 
units subsidized with market rate homes. An “arts" focused community rather 
than an “artist” focused community. The one Raines described sounds wonderful 
but I suspect you have to define the definition of “artist” fairly liberally to 
make it work.

Another characteristic of artists is illustrated in a story about Jewish 
synagogues. In upstate NY and MA there is a whole area that a Jewish man bought 
to sell to Jews who wanted to be farmers. Owning land was forbidden to Jews in 
many places so there were obviously few Jewish farmers. Driving through this 
area I came upon one of those rural intersections that are actually town 
center. The only building is the one that is a gas station, grocery store, and 
post office. If there is a lake around, it sells fishing bait.

But this one also had two synagogues. Two. Probably the only two in the whole 
area and they were across the street from each other in different directions 
from the store. They were very small stone buildings that would never fall down 
but they would hardly have fit even a minyan of 10. Why not one so at least a 
small congregation would be possible. 

I told this story to a Jewish friend who was a European immigrant in his 
eighties. The scene was perfectly predictable to him. He said, “Every town has 
two synagogues. They come in pairs. The one you go to and the one you wouldn’t 
be caught dead in.

Artists are often the same way about art.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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