Integrated and Supportive Spaces
Throughout this project, I gathered ideas on what an ideal studio space could look like to support artists from a variety of different backgrounds. The intention was that my findings could then form part of a proposal to start something new or expand on an existing project back in the UK.
Sound Proof Room
One unique idea that Creative Growth recently implemented, within their studio, was a sound proof room for participants with developmental disabilities to use during studio sessions. It could be used in any way they wished; as a quiet space to work, a space to be alone in peace or even a space to scream. The room also has potential to introduce artists to working with sound, which can often be difficult to develop within a busy working studio.
I was particularly interested to learn about the recent focus from the staff at Creativity Explored to create more opportunities for artists with and without disabilities to work alongside each other.
Creativity Explored Executive Director Amy Taub tells me that this process has “created a lot of challenges” because “we don’t want to lose what people call “the magic” we don’t want to lose the integrity of the kind of quality of support that we provide to our artists”. Taub explains that because the programme already has a set way of working, it is hard for their team to change the dynamic of the studio without “muddying the way we interact and the way that we work with people here.”
Taub explains that their Artist in Residence program, that invites practicing outside artists to work alongside and collaborate with the studio artists, has been their first step in working out how they can bring a variety of artists into the studios. Although, she explains that this is “not what I really call integrated opportunities” and that “we’re going to be looking at ways to bring our artists out into people’s studios in the community and have some of our artists make work in community artist studios.”
It appeared that what was obstructing Creativity Explored from really pursuing their idea of “integrated opportunities” was mainly a lack of space and Taub is now considering “opening small studios around the city where we would have four people with developmental disabilities and support staff working in that studio and then having the rest of that space open to artists without disabilities”.
From my time at Creativity Explored, it was clear that the Artist in Residence program had shown staff the potential benefits and possibilities that a fully integrated working environment could bring. I was therefore excited to learn that Hospitality House’s Community Arts Program (CAP) employs a unique open door studio policy that welcomes any artist in the city to access their workshop space, regardless of their employment, housing or educational status. Ivan Vera, Hospitality House’s Studio Manager tells me that, “anybody could come in – you just have to make art.”
The recently renovated studio, (yet to be finished when I visited), is located in central San Francisco, offering artists free printing and ceramics facilities, studio space and specialised workshops programmed throughout the week. Vera explains that, “even people who have a space like coming and making art around other people.”
“To learn that you had full access to art supplies, I was shocked and excited.”
– Interview with Jo, a regular artist that attends Hospitality House’s CAP
The CAP project also has a small street front exhibition space with a rotating programme that showcases the work of homeless artists working in the studio. The gallery gives all profits from sales made in its gallery to the artists involved, which has led to some seeing art as an opportunity to make an income.
Ivan Vera, Hospitality House’s Studio Manager tells me that the studio has built a strong community – a mixture of regulars and people just dropping in freely, “you get people who just want to get off the street and just doodle”.
By encouraging diversity and collaboration between artists within a creative working environment, Hospitality House has proven that an open studio can be hugely beneficial to its participants, forming a dynamic community that brings artists from a variety of backgrounds together. As Vera explains, “a lot of artists [who aren’t homeless] just end up volunteering – sitting there and helping people select the right materials”.
Opening up the studio to the wider art community has meant that homeless artists do not feel the project takes place within a space separate from the rest of society. Instead it gives participants the opportunity to build new relationships, introducing them to people who they may not usually have the chance to meet and integrate with in their day to day lives, through their common interest in art. Jo, a regular artist that attends the projects tells me that, “I really appreciate being part of a community…and having that type of exchange and creating relationships around that common denominator of art was very inspiring to me…being able to have those exchanges of ideas was recognised very much as part of the creative process.”
Although Creativity Explored are working with artists with developmental disabilities and Hospitality House are working to support homeless people, I hope that looking at this open studio policy shows the vast benefits that a studio environment like this can have on participants and the wider community.