You can try different kinds of things in alternative spaces and attract new audiences. It can create a memorable and unusual experience for your audience, your artists, and your staff. There is an element of “surprise” in the use of non-traditional spaces for the arts…a kind of “now you see it, now you don’t” feeling. A vacant building can be brought to life for a magical moment that only a few people get to share. Imagination (and a small army) is all you need!

What Are Your Options?
They are nearly as endless as your imagination and ambition. Bank lobbies, parking garages, office buildings, an atrium, basements, foyers, skywalks, vacant retail spaces, storefront windows, libraries, courthouses, municipal and federal buildings, etc. In Austin, there are a couple of swimming pools that screen films in the summer, so you can float on your inner tube and watch Jaws on the big screen!

How Do You Choose a Location?
You have two basic approaches for how you do something like this:

  1. You have a specific project in mind that has requirements your usual space cannot accommodate, such as needing a ceiling that is three-stories high. If this is your direction, you can look forward to scouting out a new location and negotiating a deal with the owner.
  2. You have access to a space that would be fun to program.

There are many factors to consider with either approach. Some basic questions are:

  • Is it or can it be made appropriate for the artist’s presentation? Bring the artist to the space to discuss specifics.
  • What special arrangements will be necessary to make the space work for an audience?
  • What are the risks?
  • What kind of insurance will be needed and who will provide it?

Location Checklist:

  • Easily accessible to the public, including handicapped access (may need to build a ramp)
  • Seating for audience, box office, and ticket-taking locations
  • Good site lines, adequate area for viewing or seating for performance
  • Crowd capacity: need to know fire code limitations established for the building
  • Electrical capacity for sound and lighting meets artist\’s requirements
  • Bathrooms and running water or port-a-cans and bottled water
  • Performer loading area/dressing room available
  • Access to the space in advance of the event to set up prior to the presentation
  • What level of security will be required? Will security be needed prior to, during, or after the performance?
  • Provide the owner with a copy of your Certificate of Insurance
  • Make accommodations for trash disposal, cleanup, and teardown following the performance

Adapted from the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies
Filebox Organizational Development Manual and Legal & Financial Primer