'Zero Empty Spaces' Fills Up with Artist Studios
Photo: Carina Mask

Empty storefronts are a drag. Artists without studio space are sad.

In a move that fills a building and a purpose, the guys behind Choose 954 and Art Ft. Lauderdale, Evan Snow and Andrew Martineau, have come up with Zero Empty Spaces, an initiative that allows artists to rent desirable space at an affordable price.

Their first space opened on Las Olas Blvd. It has eight artists in a clean storefront divided into open studios. The rent is $2 per square foot and includes electric and insurance. Snow pulls up to the space on a weekday on his bicycle to check on the artists.

“We want to make sure artists are here working, this is for full-time artists,” he says watching Rosanna Kalis paint a large canvas near the front window. In the back clothing designer Phoenix Niewidok stitches some trim onto her latest one of a kind 80s inspired creations. Popular marine artist Steve Diossy holds court in the front with several paintings and sculptures on display of his cartoonish octopi, dolphin and sharks.

'Zero Empty Spaces' Fills Up with Artist Studios
Evan Snow (left) and Andrew Martineau (right) at ‘Zero Empty Spaces’ / Photo: Carina Mask

“After we created our Choose 954 company to let people know all the art happenings in the county, we took another step and created Art Ft. Lauderdale,” says Snow. “This is where we fill luxury homes for sale with local art and bring people around by water taxi to see them. Now after speaking to so many artists, we heard of the need for affordable studio spaces. Retail is taking a hit everywhere, leaving empty storefronts and buildings. My partner and I are creative problem solvers; we negotiated a month to month deal with the landlords to lease the space to us and we in turn rent to artists.”

All the artists pay is the square footage rent as Snow and Martineau take care of everything else like utilities and insurance, set up events like potlucks and film screenings to keep people coming and have a feel of community.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Snow. “The space no longer sits empty and looking desolate, the artists get a great studio for low cost. If the space gets taken by a commercial retailer, the landlords have agreed to help us find another space to move to.”

Snow says the program has proved to be so popular they already have a waiting list of over 100 artists looking at up to 10 to 20 more spaces to lease. Their second ‘Zero Empty Spaces’ was recently announced on tony downtown Hollywood Blvd., next door to the Storefront Art Studio owned by curator Jill Weisberg of the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency. A zany mural by internationally known artist Kenny Scharf runs playfully along the side of the building, and Jill runs monthly art walks.

'Zero Empty Spaces' Fills Up with Artist Studios
Visitors inside ‘Zero Empty Spaces’ / Photo: Carina Mask

Snow says artists are coming to them with their needs and wants for their studios to be more accessible and integrated. “Our first two spaces are on major boulevards but we are looking at buildings on random streets as well. Las Olas was not our first choice, but it looks great and is good exposure for the artists. If they make a sale out of here that is theirs to keep; we are not running a gallery. As long as there is good clean space and parking it will work. Ft. Lauderdale is going in a good direction for artists as Dade and Palm Beach counties get more expensive. We’re hoping down the line the city can get behind us with tax incentives if we start creating art zones in underdeveloped neighborhoods, much like Wynwood in Miami did and FAT Village in Ft. Lauderdale’s warehouse district.”

Snow understands this doesn’t work for everybody. Artists with larger studio needs or equipment that is heavy and difficult to move can’t easily jump space to space on a month’s notice and need something more permanent. But for those who can set up a simple painting studio, it’s an ideal situation. It can also help artists connect and perhaps collaborate on projects.

'Zero Empty Spaces' Fills Up with Artist Studios
A look outside ‘Zero Empty Spaces’ on Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale / Photo: Carina Mask

Snow has other creative projects going on with his 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project, an EcoArt initiative where artificial reef installations are created of mermaids and coral rock formations that serve as an underwater eco-friendly destination for new coral reefs to form, as well as a tourist destination and a research site.

The mission is to create and enhance marine habitats while providing creative, economic and educational opportunities. Mermaids have long been a symbol of humans’ watery connection to the Ocean, and this artificial reef is being made by body casting real people in the form of mermaids on artistically crafted reef modules that will dwell on the seafloor off the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

For all these activities, ArtServe recently recognized Martineau and Snow alongside other cultural visionaries in an award ceremony. The artsy awards themselves were created by Hollywood artists, and sister team Dana and Ruth Kleinman.

“It’s all about promoting Broward County, the arts and artists, we’re creative problem solvers and are elevating the conversations by connecting with studio space, exhibitions space, and the environment.”

To learn more about this project that is creating a thriving cultural community throughout Broward County, visit www.zeroemptyspaces.com.

Zero Empty Spaces Fills Up with Artist Studios