Side Street Projects

Founded in 1992, Side Street Projects’ mission is to give artists of all ages the ability and means to support their creative endeavors.

We are a mobile, artist-run organization that supports artists, projects, and programs to foster leadership through socially engaged art and a DIY ethos. We are social entrepreneurs who work with communities to solve real world problems.

The culture of working, learning and sharing is a defining characteristic of Side Street Projects. We creates a space for cyclical dialogue with our community. Through this dialogue, we pledge to commit to furthering social justice. To accomplish this, it is essential that we work  with artists who have a full spectrum of cultural experiences and identities. We employ artists to teach in schools, and pay our artists working in communities. The artists at Side Street Projects share what they have learned to strengthen the field of artists who work with communities, schools and organizations.

We are working to address the needs of artists, youth, and the community at large. Our work employs horizontal pedagogical methods in order to break down hierarchies so that we can make space for folks to truly be creative. We work to fill the gaps in service in our community, educationally, programmatically and geographically.  Equitable access to the arts is essential to the mission of our organization. Equitable access to the arts is an issue of Social Justice.

Through consistent rejuvenation, the organizations core values remain the same: Side Street Projects connects artists and communities in facilitating dialogue, collaboration, and creative problem solving within a hands-on artmaking context.




Founded in 1992, by Karen Atkinson and Joe Luttrell. Side Street Projects began as a community fabrication shop and exhibition space located in the 18th Street Arts Complex in Santa Monica, California. The goal was to support artists who create work outside of the traditional gallery system.

In 1997 Sheila Dawson, the inventor of “The Woodworking Bus” passed her programmatic model onto us, expanding our mission to supporting artists of all ages. We continue to function under the original vision of a creative laboratory that balances hand and high technologies and acts of risk taking and responsibility to promote innovation in arts and education. Our scrappy versatile model allows us to quickly evolve to meet the needs of the community and the field. We often work as an innovator and a connective tissue supporting important movements including business support for artists, socially engaged art, and mobile programs.

Everything that we do encourages creative problem solving and self-reliance within a contemporary art context, which is reflected in our unusual operating model. After moving 6 times in 16 years Side Street Projects transformed into a completely mobile, self-sustaining community arts center in 2007. In 2010, our mobile facilities were recognized as the “most innovative artist space in the nation” by Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) a collaboration including: MIT, NEA, the Ford Foundation, and the MetLife Foundation.