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The MetLife Innovative Space Awards (ISA) was a multi-year effort by the MetLife Foundation, Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) and Susan Silberberg’s research team at MIT to create a database of the best examples of affordable artist space. As Associate Director of the awards, Susan worked with over 100 arts organizations nationwide to understand the organizational, financial, affordable space, and community engagement challenges they face and to identify trends and common attributes of success. The ISA moved the general discussion of the difficulty of creating and maintaining affordable space toward tangible solutions by highlighting real practice challenges and successful solutions. In a parallel effort, the Artist Space Development (ASD) Guidebook was developed by Susan and her MIT research team to answer basic questions about the process of developing affordable artist space and to provide a road map and resources to arts organizations and other non-profits. The awards and the guidebook illustrate a commitment on the part of MetLife Foundation to move discussions about the challenges facing artist space developers toward guidelines and assistance to meet goals.
In another project, the Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets organization engaged in discussions with the “Revitalizing Urban Main Streets” planning workshop at MIT to explore the image and marketing challenges facing the commercial district. These discussions became the germ of an idea to capitalize on what had been perceived as a weakness and “Two Squares, One Place: Hyde/Jackson Square Main Streets” was an early branding decision of the team. The client ran with the idea, using pilot marketing materials to launch the new commercial district brand before the plan was completed. The client’s ability to move from discussion to decision was recognized by the American Planning Association AICP Student Project Award for Application of the Planning Process.