“What would you do if you were given a large, downtown studio space, free and clear, for up to six months?” It’s not the template for a bouncy reality show (we hope-), but a question local artists can realistically ponder, thanks to the Creative Enterprise and Artist Residency tracks of Spaceworks Tacoma. The goal of these programs is to set up dedicated artists and creative entrepreneurs with donated, vacant retail space (we’re talking prime real estate, folks), providing a three-to-six month platform for developing, exhibiting or even selling art work. Residency studios may also be used for practice or performance space. With the second round of Spaceworks drawing to a close, we asked six outgoing artists to describe their experience.
For Michael Kaniecki, the answer to the question was easy: he would make an extraordinarily long (as in, 40+ ft.) and dynamic India ink painting. Working without a roadmap, his project, Semi-Automatic, unfurled as a “slow drawing performance piece” entailing a gradual accumulation of abstract lines intended to draw viewers in like a Rorschach test.
“I am thankful to the Spaceworks program for allowing me the space to explore, since I cannot handle a work of this size in my home studio,” says Kaniecki. “Another aspect of the residency that worked for me was the sidewalk exposure to the public that the space offered. I could not have asked for a better venue for showing this work in progress. I had a ball doing my project downtown and accomplished most of what I had in mind.” Next on deck: a street-art project addressing the architecture and infrastructure of downtown Tacoma.
Photographer and painter Josh Everson was one of Kaniecki’s studio mates at the downtown-bank-building-turned-art-headquarters. He was already enmeshed in new work when we contacted him: “Well, I just moved out last week. I wasn’t able to complete as much work as I liked, because I am working 3 jobs now” – and, there was a certain problem with the plumbing. (Memo to MTV: if an art-based reality show is in the works, for verisimilitude, don’t forget to include multiple challenges involving A) heating, or B) toilets. Preferably both). “I was able to create some great work with my studio time, both photography and painting. I started a series that I am very passionate about. I’m not ready to disclose any details, but I thank Spaceworks for the opportunity and inspiration.”
One man’s plumbing nightmare is another man’s playground. The building’s third resident artist, filmmaker Isaac Olsen, had been seeking a place to do post-production, but discovered the location was ideal for a film set. “I made extensive use of our fabulous rooftop [parking] view for several scenes – and took advantage of the eerie acoustics of the building by recording various brass instruments in different rooms and passages, to haunting effect.” His feature film, I Hunger, “is now experiencing an ‘intensive editing phase,’ and I hope to screen it this summer….I got exactly what I wanted out of the facility: unlimited physical space. My outlook as an artist is tip top!”
Across the street, fashion designer and jewelry artist, Tiffanie Peters, got a crash course in retail when she opened her glam, 1970’s-inspired boutique, Chiffon. For her six-month, creative enterprise residency, she received the kind of raw space most artists can only dream of: a Pacific Avenue storefront big enough to house a family of four. But it took a herculean effort to open for business.
Spaceworks Tacoma: Tiffanie, please tell us about your experience as a creative retailer and designer.
Tiffanie Peters: It was a great experience! I learned a lot about retail. I also learned that a designer/artist needs to focus on a medium….Through this experience I have learned where my strengths are. Running a shop, producing product and having a full-time job is no easy task! If I had to do it all over again I would have had a partner set up beforehand.
SW: Anything else you would’ve done differently?
TP: Yes, I would have painted the walls one color [instead of a hand-textured blend of four]!
SW: You had a terrific set up here, with a boutique in front and a professional sewing room in back. What was your proudest achievement during your residency?
TP: I created a new series of cuff bracelets which inspired a line of bridal crowns that are in the works.
SW: You kept insane hours, balancing creative time with your day job, and a long commute to Shelton. How did you keep it going?
TP: I turned into a zombie.
SW: What are your plans for Chiffon?
TP: An online shop and to focus on wholesale.