Creating a Sanctuary Where Artists Can Sustain Their Work

This nonprofit is making commercial ground floors spaces where microbusinesses can thrive.

Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry co-founders

Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry co-founders Miles Dotson and Sarah Kirnon. (Photo by Billy Cole)

If you’ve walked the streets in the downtown of a U.S. city over the last few years, you’ve likely seen vacant ground floor spaces with ‘For Lease’ signs pasted to the windows. Cities across the country have been trying to figure out how to enliven their downtowns after the COVID-19 pandemic made them more empty than in previous years. 

Downtown Oakland is home to Micro Market Spaces, an offering from the local nonprofit Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry that provides micro businesses access to no-cost retail space. 

The Micro Market Space is one way its founders — Miles Dotson and Sarah Kirnon — are putting previously empty ground floors to use. Sanctuary for Sustainable Artistry, which is focused on building and supporting local resilient communities in the city, works with property owners and landlords to convert their spaces into a community good that makes the downtown area feel more abundant.

“We’ve been able to see just in this location, for example, increased attractiveness to the area that has been helping to fill in some of the vacancies in this part of Oakland’s downtown. We don’t necessarily think that the market is a profit-bearing space in the way that people idealize it to be,” Dotson says. “And I will say even almost up to 40% of downtown space should be repurposed for some type of public domain user access in order to make the city continue to have a vital opportunity.”

To learn more about the nonprofit, supporting small and micro businesses and making downtowns places that feel alive again, listen to this episode below or subscribe to the Next City podcast on Apple, Spotify or Goodpods.

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