One of the most frustrating barriers to creating art is finding a space to work in. SpaceFinder Alberta is changing this with a listing service aiming to provide a robust solution for Albertan creators.
“We’re kind of referring to it as the Airbnb for non-profits and artists to find the spaces that they require to do their work,” Julian Mayne says.
Mayne is the executive director for Arts Habitat Edmonton, the non-profit company running the service locally. Its mandate is to find and create local spaces for artistic work to flourish, and by combining forces with the similarly focused Calgary Arts Development, they’re scaling up a province-wide listing program that serves a major community need.
“It’s absolutely free to list and it’s absolutely free to use,” Mayne says.
The idea of a free, arts-focused listing service isn’t new to the city; Edmonton SpaceFinder existed online 10 years ago, but Mayne says it was difficult to use.
“The interface didn’t work very well,” he explains. “It was a little lumpy, and ultimately it also suffered from not having enough resources to get people signed up.”
With more than 300 registered spaces in Calgary and more than 100 in Edmonton (up from 70 last month), SpaceFinder Alberta aims to thwart its predecessor’s failings. The service is licensed through Fractured Atlas, a U.S. non-profit that runs successful SpaceFinder programs across North America. With a full-scale launch planned for the fall, Mayne says the current goal is to get as many spaces and venues registered as possible.
“That’s the trick,” Mayne says. “It’s actually getting out there and getting people listed. The effectiveness of this tool is completely reliant upon the number of people using it.”
Dave Von Bieker, cofounder and arts chaplain of Alberta Avenue’s Bleeding Heart Art Space, first heard about SpaceFinder over coffee last spring and leapt at the chance to be an early adopter with his gallery.
“There’s probably 75 percent of time in the month where there’s literally nothing happening in the,” Von Bieker says. “We’re really not fulfilling our mandate to having it be an open space in the community with that, so I’m always looking for ways to improve that and SpaceFinder seemed like a perfect fit.”
By browsing hundreds of venues, artists can filter locations for the best space that fits their project, helping them discover options they wouldn’t discover otherwise.
“If you’re not someone who’s already really coming to Alberta Avenue fairly regularly for different events, you really don’t know that we’re here,” Von Bieker says.
He describes SpaceFinder Alberta as “a dating service for spaces.”
“You don’t have to be in the same place looking for each other to meet,” Von Bieker says. “You’re just kind of looking for anybody that meets certain criteria.”
Mayne says the one-stop-shop kind of accessibility is extremely useful for photo shoots, theatre rehearsals, film screenings, exhibitions, general meetings, podcasts, and more. If the number of listed venues continues to grow, he’s confident SpaceFinder Alberta will become an irreplaceable tool for Edmonton’s community.
“It’s the ability to connect the people who need the space to the people who have the space,” Mayne says. “Maybe even in a more affordable way.”