By Lizbeth Carmona
Walking the halls of the Roderick Artspace lofts, bright colors, quotes from famous authors on seizing the day, and indie music leaking through closed doors can all be experienced before even entering the resident’s lofts.
An eclectic variety of people fill the 51 lofts in the new Roderick Artspace apartments in
downtown El Paso, especially people who make around 30% to 60% of the area median income and would like to dedicate themselves fully to their craft. Found on 601 N Oregon Street, Artspace is a location for both artists and local businesses looking to attract artistic commerce and improve the city’s cultural representation.
Though not having long since the first residents began to move in, the Artspace is charged with creative energy.
The first floor provides space for businesses that are attracted by the area such as the Kalavera Culture shop and El Paso Opera.
“We moved here just because we really liked the idea that it was surrounded by the arts so it was meant for artists,” Mariana Sandoval, office manager and young artist for El Paso Opera, said.
Artspace has more than thirty properties nationwide, in cities such as New Orleans, Honolulu, and Chicago. Even alongside such large and established hubs of cultural activity, El Paso was able to attract Artspace’s attention.
“El Paso definitely has a strong connective artist community that we are hoping to further,” said Lucas Koski, the asset manager of the lofts.
Residents of Artspace have not only found a new place to live, but a community.
“For most artists it’s a dream come true to live in a place with like minded people,” said Aaron Torres, handmade clothing designer, musician, and resident of Artspace. “To have that on top of being in downtown El Paso with so many resources that are below us, they’ve really set us up to excell in our art and take our art to the next level.”
The community has given these artist opportunities for corraboration, partnership, and advice.
“My neighbor comes in late at night with me after work, [where]we start talking about art and it just kinda becomes this dialogue of art all the time which you don’t have if you just lived in another neighborhood,” Paulina Rosas, another artist and resident, said.
Artspace has created an environment artists perhaps didn’t have in their past.
“There were times in the past where I wasn’t in college. You were painting on your own and then you wanted some feedback – maybe you were in the middle of a painting – and you’re kinda wondering, ‘you know there’s something about this that I’d like to get someone’s opinion’ and it wouldn’t happen for me. I usually had to just take a chance and go with it. I like it here – that I have that option and I actually use it,” said RJ Williams, poet, artist, and resident of Artspace
Unfortunately, some feel the magnitude of this community often goes unnoticed by local residents.
“There’s an amazing amount of talent that I think goes unrepresented so what better way to show your pride to support some of that talent,” Mauricio Rodriguez, art enthusiast and professor of Chicano/a studies, said.
This Artspace opens the doors to public appreciation.
“Maybe now with this building and with the trolley running outside and everything once they get that done will maybe strengthen and bring more awareness at least locally,” said Williams.
If Williams is correct, it could mean more locally driven change in this city.
“El Paso is in a really great position to have people bond together and invest in our local community and our local artists, our local entrepreneurs, our local businesses so that we don’t have to rely on the city thinking that they have to bring big corporate entertainment or stores or whatever to make it attractive,” Torres said.