Artists Find Space to Create through Partnerships

By Forker, Jennifer | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), June 11, 2015 | Go to article overview

Artists Find Space to Create through Partnerships


Forker, Jennifer, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Emily Free Wilson was renting space in an old Helena, Montana, brick building where other artists worked, when she began hosting community events and kids' summer art camps. "I remember my friend, a sculptor, telling me, Emily, you're running an art center!' And I said, No, I don't want to!' Free Wilson recalls.

Then she thought more about it: She did like sharing her space, organizing events and collaborating with other artists. So she and her husband, Matt Wilson, bought and renovated a former mortuary. In moved their company, Free Ceramics, which produces pottery notable for colorful, playful dots. Other artists - painters, a sculptor, a furniture refinisher and crafters - also moved in, lured by 90- cents-a-square-foot studio spaces.

Free Ceramics has rented its events and gallery space - with a vaulted ceiling and hardwood floors - for a square-dancing potluck fundraiser, a preschool graduation ceremony, a furniture refinishing class and more. The place is booming.

"It's really important to have spaces like this in the world - places that encourage creativity and deepen that artistic spirit that people need to share, says Free Wilson.

Unusual studio arrangements and community art centers exist nationwide to provide artists with free or reduced-cost space and a way to share their work with the public.

For example, the non-profit Ponyride has for several years provided space in a 30,000-square-foot Detroit warehouse to socially conscious artists and entrepreneurs at a mere 20 cents to 25 cents per square foot.

Now Ponyride is launching an artists-in-residency program: Vetted artists will receive a stipend, studio space and lodging at the warehouse. In return, they'll need to document their work and provide a workshop or seminar for the community.

"We want them to leave their imprint on Detroit if they're not from here, says Ponyride Executive Director Karla Henderson.

In Denver, the nonprofit PlatteForum hosts a single artist for two months four times a year. What the artist receives: free lodging, a stipend and ample studio space. In return, the artist provides open studio hours, and hosts an exhibit or workshop. …

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