Grey James has Mondays and Tuesdays off from his part-time job at a wine warehouse a few blocks away, but this is where his real work begins. An artist living in Glendale, Grey paints on large pieces of canvas, so having space to create is a necessity.
“I historically have worked in large pieces and I've tried to bring them down over the size,” says James. “Because I understand the realities of trying to find housing to accommodate those pieces and the difficulty of that and I was looking at the final movement of just having to say goodbye to all of it and to throw them all away.”
There’s no rent control in Glendale so when James' rent doubled at his last apartment, he went looking for another place to live.
“And I was also actually looking for places I could live as a homeless person,” he admits.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but James credits luck more than anything. He channels Charles Bukowski.
“The epithet on his tombstone is ‘Don’t Try.’”
James is one of 40 artists living in Ace 121, an affordable housing complex with 70 units. Developed by Meta Housing Corporation, this whole building is affordable but was designed with artists in mind.
“What we try to do is provide a support structure for artists,” says Michelle Espinosa Coulter, Director of Artist Housing at Meta Housing Corporation. “Here they get affordable housing, they also have access to the gallery where they can curate or show their own exhibits. They can access to our creation spaces.”
Costing $30 million dollars over five years, federal funds allow Meta Housing to determine who gets to benefit so they included artists as a protected class. About 5,000 people applied.
James pays $1,000 a month to live in his one-bedroom apartment. Without affordable housing, he would not be able to afford the market rate $2200 to live in a similar space.
“It’s allowed me to keep working and it’s allowed me to stay true to how I work and to what’s inside, you know, what’s going on upside, inside there,” says James.
At the L.A. Art Show, James exhibits his work with Bert Green Fine Art. His large works are on display and he’s already found a collector.
“It’s the difference between, like, like I can barely make my bills as is. Now I get to maybe go to a movie,” says James.
And maybe get some art supplies.