What is SPACES?

SPACES is a nonprofit public benefit organization created with an international focus on the study, documentation, and preservation of art environments and self-taught artistic activity.

image-coupleJo Farb Hernández, Director of SPACES with Seymour Rosen, Founder of SPACES, in front of Watts Towers, 1999. Photo by Sam Hernández

SPACES — Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments

SPACES is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) public benefit organization that was incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Founding director Seymour Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization; currently operating out of offices in northern California, it boasts an archives of approximately 35,000 photographs as well as numerous books, articles, audio and video tapes/DVDs, and artists’ documents.

 “For me the magic has always been in watching people getting turned on to ‘street art’ and then producing their own. Only the most pedantic, egotistical or fearless witnesses to these phenomena have tried to fit them into particular categories. But they defy categorization, and that fact has resulted in an ongoing battle to get institutions to recognize the value of documenting and preserving these forms of expression. Collecting the material has been, of necessity, a labor of love…. But I am told that perhaps the time has come; perhaps a varied and complete record of the most ephemeral events of the American spirit and heritage can finally be assembled for us all to share. Maybe we will even be able to preserve the environments and objects so that people can see them firsthand. SPACES is an attempt to move in that direction, to acknowledge the magic made available to us by those whose work looks best outside of institutional walls—with the hope that we all will take the time to do our own explorations.”


What does SPACES do?

SPACES has served as an international resource to state arts and humanities councils, museums, universities, public radio and television stations, state historic preservation offices, and grass roots organizations in their local and regional efforts to document, research, and preserve the phenomena of art environments: hundreds of researchers request information annually from SPACES’ archival collections.

SPACES staff have developed materials to help local communities answer the appropriate questions for art historical, humanistic, sociological, and preservation concerns; have written feature articles on the subject for national and international magazines and journals; have spoken at national and international conferences of arts organizations, folklorists, preservationists and museum personnel; have guest-curated exhibitions for museum and university galleries; and have supplied documentation for films, videos, articles, books, and other dissemination projects by independent researchers and scholars.

Contact SPACES with research questions, to request more information or to book a speaker
View the SPACES Board

What does SPACES Archives consist of?

SPACES has become recognized internationally as the largest and most complete archive on this subject. The databases are generally organized into four components:

  1. The site database, which contains historically-significant and varied information on over 1,400 sites in the United States alone, as well as on numerous sites overseas;
  2. The bibliographic database, which includes almost 2,000 multi-lingual entries citing documents relating to art environments;
  3. The exhibitions and events database, a comprehensive chronological record of thousands of museum/gallery displays, conferences, lectures, panels, and other events which featured these artists and their sites, including documented audience figures for each; and, most importantly,
  4. The archival collection, including some 35,000 photographs, site plans, and primary documents produced by the artists, maps, artifacts, video and audio cassettes and DVDs of artist interviews, and other materials related to self-taught artistic activities. This also includes a clipping file, personal letters and correspondence from artists, scholars, researchers, museum and gallery personnel, arts and history/humanities councils, and governmental agencies.

SPACES also includes fifty state files that detail information on the political organizations of each state, so as to facilitate the nomination of sites to historical landmark status, or to cut through the bureaucratic red tape when trying to save those that are imperiled.

What is an Art Environment?
Suggest an Art Environment to include in the SPACES Archives

Sabato Rodia, Watts Towers, East Los Angeles, CASanford Darling, House of 1000 Paintings, Santa Barbara, CA (Non Extant)Duke Cahill, Yard Art, Sacramento, CA (Non Extant)Emanuele "Litto" Damonte, Litto's Place-Hub Cap Ranch, St. Helena, CA (Extant)Eddie Owens Martin (St. EOM), Pasaquan, Buena Vista, GA (Extant)

Sabato Rodia, Watts Towers, East Los Angeles, CA

Sanford Darling, House of 1000 Paintings, Santa Barbara, CA (Non Extant)

Duke Cahill, Yard Art, Sacramento, CA (Non Extant)

Emanuele “Litto” Damonte, Litto’s Place-Hub Cap Ranch, St. Helena, CA (Extant)

Eddie Owens Martin (St. EOM), Pasaquan, Buena Vista, GA (Extant)

SPACES actively collects all kinds of materials pertaining to art environments and self-taught art in order to keep the archives updated.

If you have images, books, magazines, clippings, audio-visual materials, ephemera, or other materials that you would like to donate please visit our Share Your Stuff! page or email us!

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and tag #spacesarchives 

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces