John Adams on making creative spaces

Posted on Apr 1, 2016 :: Face Time
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

The draw is a creative space where we have rental spaces for artists as well as gallery space. It’s basically a place for the community to get together and be creative. We have 16 offices and we are 100 percent full, which is amazing. We have everything from graphic designers and web developers to recording artists and tattoo artists — a little bit of everything. Some are here for an hour a day and some are here for several hours a day. We also have the main gallery and event space I manage.

The idea for The Draw came from my experience in Chicago where I ran a gallery in a building a bit like this one that had artist live-work spaces and a gallery on the main floor. It was such a fun atmosphere. I kind of stole that idea a little bit, and after doing the first gallery at the Mile of Music, everyone in the community was like “this is so good, we have to do this year round.” So I put feelers out to see how that could happen. As I went from one side of town to the other, I always saw this building, which had been vacant for so long. It’s in a prime location. A friend of mine knew the developer and I got introduced to them and proposed the idea. Randy Stadtmueller and Renee Torzala at Stadtmueller & Associates were on board with it. I sat down with them and said this is what I want to do, this is the revenue I think we can make and they just let me run with that. Randy is a dreamer, like me, so it was really fun to sit down with him and talk about it. Once we got started and had people ready to sign leases, before we even started construction and this place was moldy and leaky, they could see we were onto something.

There has been a lot of discussion of the creative class and creative economy and a lot of that stems from my generation (I’m 34) and our experience with the Great Recession. We’ve always been known as this generation that sort of bounces around from career to career. I think the recession forced a lot of people in my generation, who were in the early stages of their careers, to think outside the box about what they wanted to do. It’s resulted in a lot of new startups and a lot of people who are figuring out some creative ways
to make money and to be relevant.


For us, business is much more collaborative and much more about working together.

The space here is intended to support that by being somewhat of an incubator. There are people who maybe had an office at their house and are ready to move out or are starting a small, creative business that’s ready for that next step. We wanted to make it a really broad swath of people. We’ve kept the price point low to attract those businesses that will only need it for a year or two. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I want them to grow and move on and make room for the next one. A lot of developers would prefer three-to-five-year leases, but the folks at Stadtmueller have been really good about understanding the vision.

In addition to the office spaces, we have the main gallery, which I will curate. We also use it for special events and live music. I’ll be bringing in other curators and we are going to change up the show every month and a half to two months with a new opening. Our regular hours will probably be Friday through Monday. There are not a lot of things to do around here on Sundays and Mondays, especially downtown.

People should be living down here and working and using the river. No one wants to live in a place where there is nothing to do.