© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

‘Artists deserve to live in their city.’ Miami arts group to help artists pay rent

 Current Oolite Arts resident Ale Moros creating artwork in her studio in Miami Beach. PHILLIP KARP Courtesy of Oolite Arts

Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/visual-arts/article276830991.html#storylink=cpy
Phillip Karp
Courtesy of Oolite Arts
Current Oolite Arts resident Ale Moros creating artwork in her studio in Miami Beach.

As Miami’s housing affordability crisis persists and rents skyrocket, local artists are facing a growing concern: Can we afford to live here? A local arts nonprofit’s new initiative offers a solution -- at least for a few years.

Oolite Arts, a Miami-based organization that provides resources to artists, announced the Knight Artist Housing Stipend, a multi-year program that gifts Oolite’s artists in residence with $12,000 a year to go toward housing costs starting in 2024. Oolite’s residency program provides artists with free studio space at the nonprofit’s Lincoln Road location for two years. Applications for the 2024 studio residency open July 12.

“We began to see that it was becoming very difficult, even with free studios through Oolite, for our artists to have housing. It’s just that simple,” said Dennis Scholl, the Oolite Arts president and CEO. “They were living further and further away, and we grew concerned that we were going to be in a situation where our artists couldn’t live in our community.”

"Our families are here, our histories are here. Miami artists deserve to live in their city.”
Diana Eusebio, textile artist

Oolite is using $876,000 from its $1.25 million grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fund the housing stipend initiative, Scholl said. The affordability crisis -- and its effect on local artists -- is “terrifying,” he said. Scholl said he hopes that local arts organizations can unite to discuss ways to help local artists stay in Miami.

“We can’t solve the whole problem, but this is an effort with the Knight Foundation to both help these artists who we have chosen to receive free studios, but also to spur conversation and see if there are solutions out there,” Scholl said. “We got to find a way to address this affordability crisis.”

Since the pandemic, Miami-Dade’s growing population has put a strain on the housing market and caused rents to soar, sometimes to the point of pushing locals out of their homes. Many artists find themselves paying out of pocket for two major expenses at once: rent for housing and studio space.

Dennis Scholl is the outgoing president and CEO of Oolite Arts. He's retiring to pursue his art and filmmaking.
Mary Beth Koeth
Dennis Scholl is the outgoing president and CEO of Oolite Arts. He's retiring to pursue his art and filmmaking.

For Diana Eusebio, a textile artist and photographer originally from Miami, the stipend was a welcome surprise. Eusebio, who started her residency with Oolite this year, is among the first group of artists to receive the housing stipend in 2024. Future Oolite residents who live in Miami-Dade will be eligible for the stipend.

“Oh my gosh, I was so happy,” she said. “I had no idea.”

Securing the free studio residency at Oolite was a major relief, she said, but it came with a challenge. Eusebio, 25, graduated from college during the pandemic and was living with her family near Homestead. That meant she had to commute an hour to get to Oolite’s building on Lincoln Road. She spent so much time driving, she started feeling back pain, she said.

READ MORE: Oolite CEO is going from supporting other artists to making his own art

When she decided to move closer to her studio, she went through a process that has become a right of passage for Miami’s young residents: frantically texting friends to look for an affordable apartment. With the Oolite stipend, she said, she can focus on her artwork without having to worry about taking on extra jobs to pay for her Miami Beach rent.

Being an emerging artist in Miami is a “double-edged sword,” Eusebio said. There are more opportunities for Miami artists now than ever, she said, but at the same time, artists are struggling to live in the area they helped turn into an arts destination. She said she hopes other organizations follow in Oolite’s footsteps to support artists’ housing.

“Our families are here, our histories are here,” Eusebio said. “Miami artists deserve to live in their city.”

This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.

More On This Topic