It has been an honor to serve. Thank you, Tacoma

Heather Joy, Spaceworks Manager

After five years of joy and pain, thrills and chills, I am leaving my post as Spaceworks Manager to return to my own art and small business, HOLDstudios. Thank you Tacoma, it has been an honor to serve.

My career in arts administration began at Artist Trust, where I worked for Washington State artists for nearly 8 years. After that, I left to work with my husband on our business HOLDstudios in 2008. Over the next 5 years, we ran our little business, had two kids, and suffered through the economic collapse being self-employed. And even though things were turning around for the economy and our business, in early 2013 when I saw the Spaceworks job listing, I felt it was a perfect fit! I was thrilled to return to arts administration, to work with the amazing Amy McBride, and support artists and creative entrepreneurs in Tacoma – an amazing city with so much artistic talent and creative drive.

Heather Joy at Woolworth Windows, first week on the job.

In March of 2013 I started at Spaceworks as the Coordinator at 32-40 hours per week. I was so grateful to be selected to work at Spaceworks and serve a handful of amazing artists and entrepreneurs! The first week I got to meet entrepreneurs Darcy and RR Anderson of Tinkertopia and Steve Lawler of RePly Furniture. My second week on the job I met Taylor Woodruff of soon to be Grit City Grindhouse, Mary Fox of Write253, Dion Thomas of Gallery of Ambition, and JD Elquist of Feather & Oar….I remember sitting down with JD over coffee at Amocat Cafe and I asked him what “Amocat” stood for. Oh my, I had a lot to learn!

Heather Joy and volunteers prepare a wall for new mural in Tacoma
Summer 2013: Heather Joy, Josh Jorgensen and Gabriel Brown prepare a wall for a new mural in Tacoma.

Learning the landscape of space, I toured lots of spaces in the first few months, and the reality of space we got to work with: the weeping walls of Grit City Grindhouse, the dusty spaces under renovation in Courthouse Square, and some “unique” spaces on the UWT campus. We took what donated space we could get from property owners and ran with it!

Summer 2013: Tinkertopia before… and AFTER!

When I joined Spaceworks five years ago as the sole employee, we had a tiny budget (~$70k) and a handful of clients. Since then, we have grown into a robust program serving hundreds of artists and creative entrepreneurs with an FY18 budget of $460k and we now have a staff of five (4 FTE). This growth was necessary to address the needs of Tacoma’s creatives.

2014: Second cohort of entrepreneurs in training.

To support them we have developed the Incubator training (over 100 entrepreneurs served) and personalized business coaching (18 businesses served), and have provided 18 microgrants to small businesses. We launched the Coworking program in 2015 and have facilitated work space for 25 creatives. In 2017 we wrote our first ever 5-year strategic plan and a communications and community engagement strategy. Our Special Projects program has expanded to include the TRANSFORM and Links to Opportunity projects that have commissioned over 40 artists and engaged over a thousand people in the development projects happening in our community. On top of that, in just under two years, our little gallery has rocked the art scene with 12 regionally acclaimed, culturally relevant shows, organized by 132 awesome artists/curators, incorporating over 45 performers and speakers, and seen by over 3,500 visitors. And of course, we have maintained our streetside Artscapes program that has provided over 175 artists with free space and money to create temporary public art installations in the heart of downtown making the streets more vibrant and beautiful.

Spring 2015 cohort of entrepreneurs in training.

Five years ago, we were known for providing small businesses “6 months free rent”. Today Spaceworks is about providing those small business owners with the tools to lease spaces on their own, negotiating the terms on a space best suited for their businesses. We have learned that “free space” comes at a cost. You can invest as much blood, sweat, tears and money into adapting available spaces to your business as you would negotiating a smart lease from day one in the perfect location. Our Incubator program is a unique asset to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and we continue to grow and refine it to show the region that Tacoma is the best place to launch a business!

Spring 2014: Gabriel Brown and Heather Joy moving Spaceworks into a long vacant building at 10th and MLK.

I do admit the best part of my job has been the opportunity to hand the keys to so many businesses and say “good luck and kick butt”! I am inspired every day by their hard work and dedication to their businesses. Thanks to partnerships with willing property owners, we have supported many great Tacoma businesses:

Adventures by AppointmentAlana T Photography StudioConcrete MarketCrews CreativeDo the ExtraordinaryDub City Studios, Fame Takers, Gallery of Ambition, Grit City GrindhouseMod Curio(RIP), Nature City PhotographyNorthern Pacific DigitalPointlinePolyRevSchnelluloid FilmsSide x Side Creative, Sky Creative, Turtledust MediaSPUNTacoma Arts Community CenterTacoma Tool LibraryThe Blue OctopusThe Tshirt MenTinkertopiaWind Talker Innovations

I’m thrilled by the relationships we have built that have allowed for some of our businesses to get great spaces on their own through capitalizing on our connections: ROTATOR

Early 2015: 1120 Downtown as Spaceworks moved in.

I’m excited to see the growth of the coworking landscape in Tacoma and the role that Spaceworks has played in its development. Over the years, after looking at numerous vacant spaces while understanding our clients’ needs, we found a couple of spaces with generous property owners who opened up the possibility of colocating several artists and entrepreneurs in a commercial space, with us as the master leaseholder. Our current tenants include:

Destiny City Music CollectiveDOTG shopFabitatFrankly Cinematics, Fresh Face Stace,  & Designs, 


November 2017: Fish Tank event at 1120 Downtown.

I’m so proud of so many of our businesses who took matters into their own hands and leased spaces on their own:

eTc, Destiny City Comics, House of Kerri, Nearsighted Narwhal, The Arts & Crafts Press, Tease Chocolates, Kiddos & Kin, PopUp Coffee, Sound Movement Arts Center, Shroom Brothers, Minka Tacoma, Tacoma Actors Repertory Theater, Elope253, Productivity Parlour for Artful Living, Tacoma Thrift & Consignment, UpLift Yoga, LiftPortTacoma AikikaiLove Letters Intimates, PodWorks, Burns Violins, ReStyle, Jade & Co


eTc Tacoma, photo by Patrick Hagerty


Oh yes, and those who even bought their own buildings: birdloftSound Concrete Countertops

And watch for these awesome businesses who have received Spaceworks support: The CultureShock Collective, Creative Colloquy, GoodDesign, LettuceThe Yes WorksMihael Blikshteyn PhotographySplice Welding & DesignSPFYTEES, Tim + April, Renaissance 21, Presa, Rogue FriarSwoon Records, Cora Coffee, Brown Betty, Erika Ray, Explore It Scavenger Hunts, This Then That, Bering Street Studio, Ogden, Healing Renaissance, Whirr and Thrum, Shanti Sound Healing + Yoga, Canned, Baird Textile & Sundry, Sabot Woodworks, Nuart Media Group, No Man’s Land ArtifactsPepper Pot CosmeticsBlue Melon Productions

I am extremely grateful to have been just a small part of so many businesses getting going or growing in Tacoma. They are making Tacoma vibrant and a destination city!

Of course, there have been challenges while at the helm: misconceptions about the Spaceworks program and how it really works, lease and contract negotiations, gentrification, Third Thursday Art Walk, and how Spaceworks is truly funded. Nevertheless, we rolled up our sleeves and continued moving forward, unlocking opportunities, and constantly building on our sustainable and supportive services.

Spaceworks is just one thread of the vibrant fabric of Tacoma. Together with all the other threads, we are making Tacoma the unique, culture-rich city we all know and love. Together we can keep building.

May 2014: Landmarks Preservation Commission Awards Spaceworks award for “Downtown Revitalization”. From left: David Schroedel, Metropolitan Development Director at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. Amy McBride, Arts Administrator at the City of Tacoma. Heather Joy, Spaceworks Manager. Gabriel Brown, Spaceworks Assistant.

Yet moving forward, I will be participating as an artist and entrepreneur since I will be returning to my own art and creative business and passing the reigns. 2018 will be a year of opportunity and change for Spaceworks, and with all the important work we have accomplished I believe Spaceworks is in a strong place for the new leader to take Spaceworks to the next level.

I’d like to thank all those I have had the chance to work with (past and present) and who will continue working hard every day to make Tacoma more vibrant:

Staff: Gabriel, Dmitry, Gwen, Kate, Andrea; Interns: Dion, Zoe, Madison, Chardanae, Ally, Walker, Sara; Consultants: Miriam, Aimee, Diane, Jillian, Chris, Kris; Steering Committee: Ben, Kevin, Ryan, JD, Amy and David; fundraising committee: Katy, Traci and Jenny; Tom, David, Lynnette and the rest of the Chamber staff & board; Kristina and the DOTG staff; Jim and the BIA team; Amy, Naomi, Rebecca, Asia and the rest of the team at the City; property owners Ben, Rane, Rick & Jori, John & Pat, Simon & Johnson, THA, Josh & Jonathan at DCL, WC Studio, AT&T, ; community partners: Janine, Cat, Terry, Eli, Nick, David, Petra, Drea, Kathy, Josh, Roberta, Jeff, Alanna, Andy, Stacy, Megan, Stacie, Thomas, Jason, Sayde, Rachel, Aaron, Pastor Steele, Reuben, Valarie, Beverly and Elizabeth; and of course all the Spaceworks artists and creatives!

It has been an honor to serve. Thank you, Tacoma!

I encourage you to continue supporting Spaceworks Tacoma: