Mind and Space. Space and Mind.
Creatives need space to create.
That sounds simple, but as a community, Charlotte needs to bear it in mind more.
We have far too few affordable places where creatives can work, alone or together.
Creatives say space is the ultimate resource
That’s what we heard last year when we worked with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute to conduct a survey of nearly 650 Mecklenburg County creatives.* [READ IT HERE.] When asked what they needed to succeed as creative entrepreneurs, the majority of those surveyed responded: affordable space.
More than money, fame, education or tools, they said “space” – a dedicated studio in which to work. Many creatives we speak with work in their bedroom, living room, dining room or garage (if they’re lucky).
And, that lack of space is holding them back. This is also echoed in the new “State of Culture” report issued by the City of Charlotte and the Arts & Culture Advisory Board. [READ IT HERE.]
A door makes a difference
The studio is where the magic happens – the frustrating, overwhelming and beautiful process of creativity.
Not all studio spaces are equal. Not all come with the resources, training and an established artist community. Collective studio spaces such as the McColl Center and VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) Center (across from one another on N. Tryon St.) provide what most “at-home studios” cannot – a space that is designed for and dedicated to artistic work … a place where the lines of “home” and “work” aren’t blurry.
Studio spaces like VAPA and McColl can also offer taller ceilings (to make and house larger works), places to store materials, access to shared tools or wider spaces to assemble art. Creatives’ imaginations and what they can create are too often limited by what space they can afford. They’re limited not by what they can do, but by physical constraints.
Sometimes the most important physical attribute of a creative space is simply a door that locks. A creative’s work, tools and supplies are safely waiting for them, undisturbed, the next time they open that door.
The power of collective studio spaces
Creatives who have found dedicated space for a studio frequently tell us that the most important part of places like the McColl Center or VAPA is the community they offer. Access to other creatives and their collective wisdom and specific knowledge and an intangible artistic spirit of possibility are among the benefits of being part of a collective.
Artists often work in isolation. But, having a dedicated space that adjoins a collective space helps them find a community ready to support and encourage them throughout the creative process. Studios in communal spaces help artists through the “ugly phase” of a creative piece of work that’s on the brink of completion but needs something to push it through.
And, then there’s the impact on the community at large. Community studio spaces introduce visitors to new creatives from around the city (and the world).
We’re excited to see spaces like VAPA, McColl, Charlotte Art League and more making artistic space available. And, we’re grateful that public and private groups are seeing how our creative community cannot succeed without it. But, in a hot market like Charlotte, space is at a premium.
That’s why Charlotte Is Creative is working to make free mini-residencies for local artists available.
Below are the stories of two creatives we helped find the space they needed to allow their minds to dream and their hands to make. We’re excited to share what the gift of space allowed them to do.
Tim Miner, Matt Olin & Makayla Binter
Charlotte Is Creative
** Funding for the survey was donated by the Reemprise Fund and the Arts & Science Council.
OUT OF THIS WORLD: THE CHARLOTTE SPACE PROGRAM
Two artists experience mini-residencies at prominent Charlotte studios
As we said, creatives need space to create. But in the Queen City, affordable creative workspace is becoming increasingly rare.
To address that challenge Charlotte Is Creative (CIC) partnered with the McColl Center in 2021 to establish mini-residencies, now known as the Charlotte Space Program, in their artist studios. This program offers a four-month gift 0f free studio space.
In 2022, CIC expanded this effort by joining with Nine Eighteen Nine Studio Gallery to make two additional studios available. The gallery is in the VAPA Center across the street from the McColl.
Since the Charlotte Space Program launched, nine creatives have enjoyed complimentary studio space through this program – five at the McColl Center and four at Nine Eighteen Nine.
Meet two Charlotte creatives who are part of the Charlotte Space Program.
CREATIVE: Jamea Marlowe
STUDIO LOCATION: McColl Center
When Jamea Marlowe applied for the Charlotte Space Program studio in the Studios at McColl Center, she knew what she wanted to accomplish.
In her application, she wrote: “If selected, I would be using the studio space to prepare and create work for my first professional solo exhibition, Lost Boys. I currently have five works completed, and I am planning on having 11 more mixed-media pieces as well as some sculptural elements for this exhibition.”
The show is a direct response to her previous experience as an elementary school art teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This series is titled Lost Boys because of the amount of Black and Brown boys that got lost and forgotten by the public education system during and after the pandemic,” said Marlowe. “The pieces I am creating are a direct response to what I saw and heard.”
Click the image above for a process video of Marlowe at work in her McColl Center Studio.
The headspace that comes with physical space
Now, eight of Marlowe’s 11 pieces are complete. In addition to her studio, being at the McColl Center gave her access to equipment that allowed her to explore mediums such as sewing, collage, printmaking and ceramics with other artists.
“Being in the McColl Center … has helped me fall in love with mixed media,” she said. “In high school and college, I loved sewing and throwing ceramics. Being with so many amazing artists from all over the world has brought me back to what I love doing.”
While being part of an artistic community is important, having quiet time – alone – is equally important for a creative practice. At the McColl Center, Marlowe has the opportunity to create and problem-solve by herself. She is actively figuring out how to build a cohesive body of work for her show and solve creative problems and meet new creatives.
Marlowe will be in residence through June. She’s busy both inside and outside her McColl Center studio. With her nonprofit, The Broken Crayon, she hosts coloring sessions for children of all ages at Camp North End and SouthPark Community Partners. She will also be part of BLKMRKT’s Durag Festival from June 19-25, a week-long festival celebrating Black people and Black joy through art installations and live musical performances.
Learn more about Jamea Marlowe at her Instagram and on her website.
CREATIVE: Stephanie Chamelo
STUDIO LOCATION: Nine Eighteen Nine Gallery Studio Gallery at VAPA
Stephanie Chamelo has been pondering the idea for her visual art show, Pretty Girl Privilege, for almost a decade. She knew this show was going to exist in time.
In the fall of 2022, that idea finally came to fruition when she created 25 paintings in her studio at Nine Eighteen Nine Gallery in the VAPA Center and then curated her first solo show at the Artisan’s Palate in NoDa. If you missed the exhibition, check out a 360 view here.
The idea stemmed from the phrase, “Pretty girls don’t light their own cigarettes.” When she quit smoking in October 2012, Chamelo wrote in her sketchbook about the privileges that came with beauty and how those were reflected in marketing, society and social media.
The necessity of community
In her studio, Chamelo had a dedicated space for her creative process to write and work backwards; a process that starts with the names of her paintings first, like Pretty Girls Don’t Eat, and then leads to her painting the image the title describes. As she painted, the studio and the community she found were exactly what she needed.
“My time at Nine Eighteen Nine … has been incredible,” Chamelo said. “It gave me the opportunity [I needed] during the development of my show. The individuals I have met were able to offer critiques and support during my creative process that had a profound impact on my development as an artist.”
At the reception for Pretty Girl Privilege, she got feedback and support from the creative community. “As a self-taught artist, I didn’t receive regular feedback and critique sessions,” she said. “I started late with art, and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.”
“[It was] nice to have other people whose brains work the same as your own. You’re not alone in the creative process.”
Moving forward from her mini-residency at Nine Eighteen Nine, Chamelo participated in the local fringe arts festival, BOOM, over the April 21-23 weekend at Camp North End. She was one of 23 local artists to create a temporary, collaborative mural on view right by the stage under the water tower at the Raceway. The artists, organized by Emily Little, updated A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat into a new piece – A Sunday Afternoon in Charlotte.
“I would encourage anyone with upcoming projects or those looking for a community to grow with to apply for [the Charlotte Space Program],” said Chamelo. “I am beyond grateful to Charlotte Is Creative, Nine Eighteen Nine and the VAPA Center for this opportunity.”
Learn more about Stephanie Chamelo at her Instagram and on her website.
APPLY FOR THE CHARLOTTE SPACE PROGRAM
The application period for one of the two spaces in Nine Eighteen Nine Studio Gallery is now open. The four-month mini-residencies will run from May 15 to September 15. The deadline to apply is May 1. MORE INFO.
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