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Preserving 350 Artist Spaces in Lowell

The Arts & Business Council is delighted to announce the preservation of Western Avenue | Studio & Lofts, a vibrant artist community in Lowell, Massachusetts, through purchase of the property as the next phase of our Creative Campus Initiative. 

Karl Frey, a real estate developer, founded Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts 17 years ago as an affordable space for more than 350 artists to live, work, and run their creative businesses. The complex, located on the Pawtucket Canal in Lowell, Massachusetts, includes 250 studio units and 50 live/work units where artists reside and practice, as well as a gallery, brewery, cafe, and an after-school arts program. The artists hold shows and exhibits at Western Avenue, as well as open art markets, and the facilities serve as both a community gathering place and an economic driver for the surrounding community. 

“Our mission at Western Avenue was always to provide a space for artists and the community to work and gather, and it was important to us for that mission to be maintained and invested in,” said Karl Frey. “We are so pleased that the Arts & Business Council partnered with us to preserve the future we envisioned for Western Avenue as one dedicated to artists’ use.”

Karl founded Western Avenue as an artist community in 2005 at the site of the old Massachusetts Mohair Plush Company, and worked until 2012 to renovate the complex into all working artist studios and live/work artist lofts. Since its founding, well over 1,000 artists have lived and worked in Western Avenue, and it has grown into a thriving artist community. When Karl decided to sell the building, it was important to him that he continued to honor his mission to maintain the space for artists to live and work affordably. That’s where the Arts & Business Council (A&BC), with our mission of supporting and nurturing the creative ecosystem in Greater Boston, came in to partner with Karl on preserving the property. 

“This purchase ensures that the artist space at Western Avenue | Studios & Lofts will remain affordable, community-based, and dedicated to creative people and their businesses,” says Jim Grace, the Executive Director of the A&BC. Ensuring space for artists directly furthers the A&BC’s mission of investing in the people and small to midsize arts and cultural organizations who are the lifeblood of the creative ecosystem.

The preservation of Western Avenue would not have been possible without the commitment and vision of the founder and current management team of the property, Karl Frey and Western Avenue’s Executive Director Patty Cullen, and their dedication to Western Avenue, the artists living there, and the goal of maintaining it as artist space. 

The Arts and Business Council is so grateful to Karl Frey and Patty Cullen for all their amazing work and passion that has gone into establishing and passing on this wonderful, community-based haven for art, artists, and the creative community in the Greater Boston area.

This partnership preserves a unique artist community that has been years in the making, and is the result of a substantial investment of time, expertise, and resources, as well as tenant involvement and leadership. With this transition, the Arts & Business Council is permanently preserving these buildings for the 350 small, creative businesses that occupy them. A&BC’s stewardship of Western Avenue represents a small step towards ending Greater Boston’s cycle of artist displacement, and demonstrates the power of mission-driven development to provide space for our creative and cultural sector. 

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