Shopping centers have always been valued parts of the communities they inhabit. In addition to shopping and dining, retail centers can also highlight the region’s emerging talent.

Kimco, one of America’s largest owners and operators of open-air shopping centers, partnered with Clementina Arts Foundation’s Sprouting Spaces to provide 2,000 square feet to an emerging artist at our Wilton River Park Shopping Center in Wilton, Connecticut. As a particularly unique tenant, the studio is sure to make a big splash in the community—and hopefully inspire some of its members.

Building a community space

The Clementina Arts Foundation was created by Fernando Luis Alvarez, in honor of his grandmother. It took on three key projects. One, called Kid Contemporary, worked to get the community’s children engaged in the arts with trips to private collections. Its Special Situation Funding partners with museums to raise money for special projects. Finally, its Sprouting Spaces initiative directly encourages art’s creation, by funding a studio space for an emerging artist within the community.

Studio spaces for young artists are difficult to find, and even more difficult to afford. An Artfinder study released in November 2017 found that 75 percent of US artists make less than $10,000 a year. Nearly half of that make less than $5,000. By providing a stable platform and granting rent-free studio space, Sprouting Spaces alleviates an artist’s most expensive proposition.

Because of this, the Clementina Arts Foundation wanted to provide a space for art to be created within a community, with no cost to the artist. By working out discounted rental rates with commercial real estate companies like Kimco, the Clementina Arts Foundation can provide a workspace for an artist who otherwise never may have found one.

Kimco became interested in this unique concept for a tenant, and our specialty leasing team helped work out a deal that would integrate the studio into the Wilton River Park Shopping Center, where the Clementina Arts Foundation will fund the studio’s lease for one year.

A celebration of art

The artist in question was chosen through an application process, with three judges choosing the eventual inhabitant of the space. The judges include the Marsted Curatorial Fellow for Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Eileen Doyle; art advisor Alexandra Caroline Porter; and the Founder and Curator of the Building Bridges Art Exchange, Marisa Caichiolo.

Approximately 70 people attended the grand opening, including local politicians and a Boston art collector. The newly selected artist, Ben Quesnel, stood out with his concept of unique hanging chairs. The grand opening was marked not only with the announcement of the new artist, selected from a list of seven finalists, but with food, drink, and music as well.

The studio has an open-door policy, allowing visitors in the shopping center to stop in to watch the artist in progress, purchase any art, or simply strike up a conversation.