Richardson has long been known as a technology-focused community. Dubbed things like the ‘Premier Tech Hub of Texas’ and the ‘Telecom Corridor,’ the area houses some of Dallas-Fort Worth’s most innovative companies. But, a longstanding nonprofit has a new vision for what Richardson’s reputation can be—a place for the arts.
The Arts Incubator of Richardson (AIR) is a social innovation initiative that unites people to collaborate, design, create, and foster new ideas together. In hosting various events, workshops, and programs, AIR provides the Richardson community with the resources budding artists need to excel.
For more than a decade, AIR has been actively searching for a permanent location. It’s held meetings out of members’ homes and found places to work while on the hunt for the perfect spot.
But now, for the first time, AIR is finding its place in Richardson.
AIR currently has three existing building sites actively under consideration and is in conversation with two significant donors. The location decision and funding is expected to be finalized by fall of this year.
“It started with the idea of having space, but the vision for what that space would provide has grown and expanded. In the early days, they did their due diligence, like visiting places in and out of state that did something similar,” David Nethery, treasurer of the AIR Board, told Dallas Innovates. “But groups need a place to rehearse. They need a place to have their headquarters. They need a place that they can call home—a place where the incubation process can occur, stimulating each other to work together. So that was really the impetus for finding a space.”
Inside the future home of the Arts Incubator of Richardson
AIR’s goal is to provide a physical space where Richardson-based artists, arts groups, and corporations can innovate and collaborate. Not just artists in the traditional sense, though. Nethery, who’s been on the Board for about four years now, says they’re looking to establish something for creative individuals of all sorts.
That’s why Nethery says AIR’s model is unlike any other organization’s. The intent is to expand on the concept of STEM to STEAM, ultimately bridging the environment between the arts and technology.
“We find that in North Texas, north of downtown Dallas, there’s really no other organization that does quite what we’re envisioning doing,” he says. “There are several who do parts of it, but we really want to expand the whole concept of what art and creativity is.”
AIR calls itself the only incubator of its kind north of and surrounding downtown. It recognizes Richardson’s well-established tech community, but Nethery points out that there’s a strong arts presence already manifested. So, the AIR team aspires to be the focal point for inspiration, whether that be through teaching, rehearsing, exhibiting, or problem solving.
Think of it like a coworking space for the arts community. You might find workspaces, studios, a rehearsal area with risers and pianos, a gift shop, meeting rooms, or offices. There will—hopefully—be a small black box theater and a rotating art gallery. And, perhaps most important to the AIR team, a space will be housed inside that can be rented out (at below market prices).
“Richardson has a very, very rich arts community. This year, the City of Richardson funded 29 different arts organizations with grants of over $350,000. And they do this every year. There are clearly more organizations than that, not to mention that’s just the organizations not the individual artists,” Nethery says. “As an incubator, we really want to bring creatives of all types in to give them an environment where it can enrich their ability to birth and grow something that is creative.”
Giving the arts exposure
Even without a physical space though, AIR has still managed to be a center of activity. AIR has been able to host recurring events open to the public through local partnerships with places like Alamo Drafthouse, Four Bullets Brewery, and Half Price Books.
One of the biggest is the Ricochet Arts & Music Festival, this year taking place on Oct. 19 simultaneously at CityLine Plaza, Heights Village, Richardson Public Library, and Four Bullets Brewery. Ricochet features free performances, showcases, and activities, all aimed at showcasing “the pinball effects of the arts.”
Nethery says the idea was born five years ago as a day of arts activities at multiple spots around Richardson—hence the name ‘ricochet.’
“We always pay the artists that we hire, whether they are groups or individuals, we offer an honorarium,” he says. “We don’t feel that parties should have to give away their work. We want to give them exposure. And we want to give the public exposure to the kind of creativity that exists in Richardson.”
And, Nethery says part of that exposure AIR is seeking out lies in the planned innovation district.
He expects AIR to be either within or near the district to better draw people in and drive traffic. He says AIR wants to “be part of that innovation factor.”
“We believe that when we get this going,” Nethery says, “a year or two of successful operation is going to allow us to become a prototype for other cities and in other parts of Texas—and even the region, too.”
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