About Arts Habitat

Arts Habitat is a non-profit organization established in 1991 and dedicated to the creation of an affordable, vibrant arts community at East Garrison in Monterey County. This new arts destination point will bring artists of all disciplines together. Its location on the outskirts of Salinas makes it easily accessible from the Monterey Peninsula, from all points south in the Salinas Valley, and north to San Jose. The new town of East Garrison will be a cultural bridge between Monterey's coastal communities and the Salinas Valley. Its proximity to CSUMB and the new residential areas in Seaside and Marina make it a convenient and accessible site for artists and participants in arts activities in the larger community, as well as for East Garrison residents. East Garrison and its arts district will grow to become a world-class arts village nurturing diverse artistic expression, showcasing the talents of Monterey County artists, generating income for artists and bringing tourist and arts patronage dollars into our county.

When Fort Ord was named on the first round of base closures in 1991, a group of local artists, recognizing a great need for affordable creative space, petitioned the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to include an arts district or arts community in the reuse program for the former military fort. This 'arts habitat' would be designed to meet artists' needs for stable living and working space and, at the same time, contribute to the fort's economic redevelopment.

The concept won powerful support from public policy makers such as County Supervisors Sam Karas and Edith Johnsen, and Congressman Sam Farr. In a 1995 letter to Arts Habitat, Mr. Farr stated, “Our tri-county area is rich with talent in all realms of the arts. By the same token, our area has long experienced a crisis in the artists community for affordable living and studio spaces. It is critical, even as we become an increasingly technical society, that we preserve the beauty and vitality of the arts. Arts Habitat allows for that preservation in a remarkably imaginative way.”

After seventeen years of intense discussions and negotiations with government agencies, architects, developers and other stakeholders, Arts Habitat is a featured component of a 1400-unit development planned as a real home town called East Garrison on the bluffs overlooking the Salinas Valley. It will have an innovative, mixed use town center, dedicated arts district, 45 acres of natural open space and improved parks. Artspace Projects Inc., a leading non-profit developer of affordable spaces for artists and the arts, will provide approximately 65 units of low cost artists live/work space, plus 57,000 square feet of day studios, classrooms, galleries, offices and rehearsal spaces.

In April 2007, earth movers broke ground on the East Garrison project. The development was planned by Urban Design Associates for East Garrison Partners, LLC. The for-profit developers were Woodman Development Company and Urban Community Partners. Construction went along on schedule, until the international economic downturn, which caused building to halt in the summer of 2008. In September of 2009, San Jose developer, Union Community Partners, LLC purchased the project.  UCP plans to commence building this summer, 2010. The completion date of the entire project, including the third phase, which will be the arts district, is unknown, at this time. A reasonable guess would be that the first affordable-by-design homes in Phase I will go on the market by late 2011. After the second phase of homes is built and sold, the arts district will be built and rented, probably in 2014.

During the past several years we have professionalized our organization and are moving ahead with offsite programming. We now have a small office, staffed by administrator Shirmaine Jones, who maintains the files, database, volunteer recruitment and bookkeeping. She attends meetings, events and workshops where she represents Arts Habitat, and assists with the work of the Board of Directors. With her help, we have added a Spanish section to our website, and are adding updated information on events and programs. She provides consistency in our operations and support for program planning and execution.

When the town of East Garrison is built, Arts Habitat will take responsibility for the artist selection process at East Garrison, coordinate and deliver arts programming services to residential and workspace users, and promote arts activities and events there. As a way to develop our programming capacity, we created and ran our first public art program between 2007 and 2009, Houses Art, Phases I and II. Houses Art was a collaborative project of Arts Habitat and artists at Monterey Peninsula College, California State University at Monterey Bay, Monterey High School, and the Independent Living program of Monterey County. Fourteen large, house shaped artworks were created by the young people who participated in the program; the artworks have been and continue to be exhibited throughout the County.

Since February of 2009 we have been producing a monthly event series called Arts in Progress at the Monterey YMCA. The program is designed to encourage participation, appreciation and understanding of different art forms. The events also provide an opportunity for artists and art lovers to get acquainted and build collaborations through lively dialogue. AIP is free and open to the public and attracts audiences of 40 - 50 people each month from around the County.

We are currently planning a new venture to help carry out our mission of creating a place for creating art. We intend to establish, at the Seaside City Center, a studio within which artists of various disciplines can create art, display their work, collaborate with one another, and, collectively, build a vibrant new arts community. This resource will also enable arts organizations within Monterey County to present work, offer workshops and extend their programming reach. Preference will be given to arts organizations working in Seaside, as well as other underserved populations across the County.

The vision of a working arts community at East Garrison, one that provided the county with an alternative proposal for development when one was sorely needed, has not changed. There is no competing proposal for reuse of the historic district. In addition, preliminary designs for preservation and reuse of historic structures exist. Arts Habitat's proven ability, in the eighteen years since its inception, to cooperate and partner with artists and arts organizations provides a unique opportunity to interpret the site in new and compelling ways. Arts Habitat's finest history has yet to be written