New York: State of the Arts
There's always a bit of religious-like mysticism surrounding the creation of artwork. But the reality of it is that it is work, it's often messy, and, like most occupations, requires time and space. But being holed up in your studio can get lonely, and many artists who can afford an off-home, distraction-less, permanent creative space prefer the community aspect offered by having their studio within a building full of other studios, and other artists.
Some benefits to working in these creative hives include the fact that audiences are often drawn by the opportunity to interact with a group of creative people, especially during coordinated open-studio days. There are great potentials (and challenges) when working within a community: inspiration, discussion, and advice. While many artists feel that Rochester isn't a great place for their field of work, others argue that this city is a more affordable and viable place to live as an artist than art meccas like New York City, where artists are a dime a dozen, and it's even tougher to make a name for yourself.
On that note, here's something to remember: people love having art around, but art requires more of an audience than it often receives, especially in its emerging, little-guy stages. I met many fascinating, talented, and motivated people in researching this piece, and though these are brief vignettes of the art studio spaces around town, I strongly advise that you check them out and get to know the artists yourselves.
565 Blossom Rd, Suite L | 288-7170, artisanworks.net
This 60,000-square-foot facility has an overflowing collection of every genre and medium of artwork you can fathom, including pieces by famous artists, local working artists, and art students. Besides being a contender for the largest local collection of art under (and on) one roof, Artisan Works offers a variety of exhibitions, outreach programs, tours of the massive collection, picture framing, event hosting, art restoration, and appraisals. Surrounded by all of this creativity, there are about a dozen artists who have their studios on site, including painters Mark Groaning and Martine Lepore. Depending when you visit the rambling warehouse, you might catch them at work.
250 N Goodman St | andersonalleyartists.com
Of all the buildings housing scores of artists, this former shoe factory has one of the most well organized collections of creative types, though according to photographer Richard Margolis -- who has been at Anderson Alley for 15 years and helps facilitate the group -- "getting 40 or 50 artists to agree on anything is near impossible, like trying to herd cats." The Anderson Alley Artists have a website complete with an artist directory, and the core group of participants who, for the past 12 years, have held regular open-studio days on the second Saturday of most months, as well as other seasonal events.
Anderson Alley artists work in paint, photography, fiber, pastels, ceramics, drawing, textiles, weaving, book arts, and more. Weaver and textile artist Jan Hewitt Towsley says her studio "has provided the right mix of public outreach, private work time, and interaction with other artists." Towsley has had a studio at Anderson Alley for 21 years; the first 19 solo, and the last two shared with studio mate Evelyn J. Kitson, who also works in textiles, weaving, photography, jewelry, and more. Towsley says that many of the artists "share ideas, as well as pool our resources for events and advertising." Kitson says, "It's inspiring to check in with other artists and see what they're doing. It's great to have a community to refer to when problem solving."
GeneseeCenter for the Arts and Education
713 Monroe Ave | 244-1730, geneseearts.org
This multi-purpose community arts center resides in a turn-of-the-century firehouse, and contains Genesee Pottery, the Community Darkroom, Printing and Book Arts, and multiple studio, educational, and gallery spaces. It's also home to Absolute Yoga & Wellness, Soleil Bookbindery, Studio 789, an after-school photo-club for city kids, and was the original home of the Abundance Co-op Market. The Center provides access to art facilities and education to community members, and has a variety of youth programs targeted toward the under-served youth of the area. You can take classes with local artists and artists-in-residence, check out ever-shifting art exhibitions, and become a member to gain access to rentable studio spaces and to facilities including pottery wheels, kiln firing, lighting and digital studios, darkrooms, and letterpress, bookbinding, papermaking, marbling, and calligraphy amenities.
1115 E Main St | 338-2269, maguirepropertiesinc.com
Before Main Street's Hungerford Art and BusinessPark was redeveloped, it was a major manufacturing plant for flavored syrups. The behemoth brick building has more than 100 studio spaces, with no exact count, as they subdivide to suit the needs of the tenants. The winding, labyrinth-like industrial space has an unfinished, taken-over feel to it, and is home to many diverse artists as well as small businesses and non-profits, including Rochester Indymedia and RochesterRegionalCommunityDesignCenter, which holds programs about local community development and redesign. There are also some lucky residents who've scored awesome loft apartments overlooking the Goodman Street train yard.
Dennis Maguire of Maguire Properties, the company that redeveloped and owns the building, says that the staff works hard "to create spaces that exactly fit the artist's requirements," and support the interaction between those artists and the community. Spaces are available for short-term use, including thesis shows, and most recently, the one-month pop-up project by art collective The Sweet Meat Co. The collective is comprised of painters, graphic designers, and street artists, including Sarah Rutherford, Lea Rizzo, St. Monci, Mr. Prvrt, and Erich Lehman, who with guest artists Jordan C. Greenhalgh and Anjolee Wolfe, rented a 2500-square-foot raw space and completely rehabbed the place into an incredibly cohesive, multi-media collaborative art installation in January 2010, using paint and discarded objects found in the building.
Also present in the behemoth building is Crocus Clay Works, which functions both as a clay studio and gallery, and is shared by clay artists Sabra Wood, Marie Verlinde, and Jennifer Buckley. The trio hosts a different guest artist each month on First Friday openings, and they also participates in various Hungerford community activities, including periodically held mass open studio days and the Zombie Walk in October, when families dress in their necrotic best and stagger down to the Public Market to shop and scare.
90 Canal St | 338-2269, maguirepropertiesinc.com
SoHoCenter on Canal Street is another combination building owned by Maguire Properties, with 25 studios and 51 apartments/working studios. Painter Robert Frank Abplanalp's place is a bona fide creative lair, entirely customized with self-constructed spaces, and packed with found-object and fashioned artifacts. Visitors to his loft wouldn't doubt for a second that they were standing in an artist's dwelling. "My current residence is good for a painter, because there are no rugs or floors that can be significantly damaged. They can easily be painted over for the following resident so I don't have to worry about spilling or splattering paint," he says. "Some things that we don't understand as a child make sense once we are grown up, but even now I don't really understand the rules of not marking the walls. " And that's just his apartment. He also rents a small studio space on a lower floor, which is lined with stacked canvases-in-progress of all sizes, in all stages of completion.
Of the creative process, Abplanalp says, "It is sometimes messy, sometimes violent, sometimes noisy -- and often times inappropriate for a residential space. These are reasons why creative people need specialized spaces where they can feel very free to unleash creativity without getting interrupted or in trouble."
137 East Ave | 461-2222, rochestercontemporary.org
Rochester Contemporary Art Center is doing great things for the art scene of this city, functioning not only as a gallery space with exhibitions of both established and emerging artists, but also as the facilitator of the First Friday city-wide gallery nights. Above the gallery on East Avenue are 10 studio spaces, four of which are available for rent. Current tenants include watercolor and oil painters, a web-design firm, and a one-person graphic design business. The downtown location, amid cafes, the Little and the Eastman theaters, and other cultural institutions, is "a great, active, pedestrian area within a vital arts neighborhood," says Director Bleu Cease. The smallish spaces are best suited for quieter arts and commercial businesses. "Clean, light studio practice: no welding or high noise," says Cease.
Studio tenants are encouraged to participate in open-studio sessions during gallery openings and First Friday events, and the public can visit the studios upstairs. Cease says he has seen moments when the studios form a community and goes beyond the built-in First Friday benefit: "Periodically, a renter synergy occurs and they'll band together, do cross-promotion and joint events."
The Village Gate
274 N. Goodman St. | 442-9061, villagegatesqaure.com
The Village Gate Square is a sprawling, diverse center in the heart of the Neighborhood of the Arts, resembling an industrial mall, but one with soul. The converted factory is home to popular restaurants like Salena's and Lento, businesses like the Bop Shop, book stores, the Image Out gay and lesbian film festival headquarters, martial arts, dance, and yoga studios, office spaces, loft residences, musicians, theater and comedy companies, and much more, as well as a small handful of visual artists. Painter Juni Moon recently moved out of her studio there, where she enjoyed the view of Village Gate's courtyard/sculpture park, the convenient access to sushi downstairs, and the wonderful people she met by having a public space. Current artists include the Weaving and FiberArtsCenter, Sprouse Photographic, and painter Steve Carpenter, whose studio is on the Anderson Alley side of the complex, and also houses the New York Figure Study Guild.