How are you? We haven’t talked in a while. I’ve been a little busy, but I never forgot about you. I know you can’t tell, but I looked in on you from time to time. I saw you were hanging out real comfy-like, with that cute picture of my little boy playing at “shaking his fists at the sky” inside that huge basket painted in an elevator by artist Richard Artschwager. So I knew you were doing OK without me.
Here’s what I was up to, and what I’m doing now. I’m gonna back up to late spring of 2016. That’s when I started a search for new studio space.
I’d just spent the previous six months as the primary caregiver for that aforementioned adorable little boy, the youngest of my two sons. As you know, he had recently been diagnosed with autism. I was with him daily, at home almost all the time, because he was barely able to leave the house much less go to school. Although I occasionally focused on my art, I rarely made it all the way into to my Oakland studio (at The Compound Gallery & Studios), though I loved it so much. After quite a bit of advocating and support, my son finally settled into an amazing public school. He loves it and he’s much happier! And I’m so happy that he’s happy. : ) Still, after all those months estranged from my work, I knew I needed to get an art studio close to home if I wanted to keep my art practice alive, to sustain my “studio mind”.
I scoured the ads and nearby neighborhoods for something (anything!) that would function as a clean well-lighted place for working on my art. I couldn’t find any shared studio space, so I decided I’d need to start from scratch and rent some private square footage of my own. I began by thinking of where I’d want to be: a walkable mixed-use neighborhood, somewhere I’d be able to be a part of a larger community, and a place that just felt right. I knew of two neighborhoods like that near where I live: Todos Santos Plaza and Downtown Martinez. The more I explored, the more I realized #1- available commercial spaces would be larger than I needed for a private art studio and #2- they’d cost quite a bit more, too. These practical realities engaged that part of my brain that is simultaneously creative and entrepreneurial. I had so many questions: Should I open a shop? Should I teach painting classes? Should I take on artist sublessees? Should I rent out table space by the hour for writers or other people who would similarly work quietly? Should I start a non-profit? How else could I use the space? All these questions came into play as I looked for a new working art studio space.
It was on one little walk around Downtown Martinez that I stumbled upon the place I finally chose. I actually found it the first day that I went out looking, but I had crossed it off my list as unusable because it was a storefront that seemed a little on the big side for my needs. At that point, I was only looking for a small private space. Since I didn’t find what I was looking for, I went on to check out tiny storefronts in other areas; soon, I ended up back in Martinez. There’s so much to love here: the coffee places, the mom & pop shops, the antiquing, food from Mexican to Thai to Italian, buildings that are old enough to remind you that people have been here for over a hundred years and that we’re part of something much bigger, much older than just our small selves. (You can tell how much I love the neighborhood, I hope?) There’s even several art venues that open together as part of Art Beat, a monthly Saturday night organized by Artcelerator.org. What more could I ask for?
I signed the lease in mid-June. I spent the summer moving out of my Oakland studio (oh, the packing and unpacking!), furnishing the space mostly from craigslist (love the “free stuff” posts!) and slowly setting it all up to be ready for use as my own art studio space AND as a public art space. I was able to hand over the Editor-in-Chief reigns for ProWax Journal, the online art magazine I founded; I moved over to the role of consulting editor/wordpress publisher. Our 13th issue came out earlier this month. I almost forgot, I even squeezed in some time learning to work in woodshop at the Institute of Fabrefaction part of The Compound, because I (thankfully!) remembered I had paid long ago to learn how to use those big loud machines, but I’d never scheduled the class. Once I got the hang of it, I used up my last two weeks there using the miter saw, scroll saw, belt sander, nail guns, and table saw as often as I could. My boy had summer school (he needed that consistency) so it gave me the option to squeeze the last bit out of my time in Oakland. I fell so in love with working with wood that I kicked myself for not learning the machines earlier. Here are some pics of what I started on, and I absolutely plan to continue to work with wood. I can’t wait. Must. Save. Up. For. And. Borrow. Equipment.
So I completed the move into my new art studio at 725 Ward Street, Downtown Martinez. And all the while, I was thinking about how I would use the public half of the space. After quite a bit of consideration, I finally settled on it: I wanted to teach people about living, working, and thinking like an artist. I wanted to facilitate dialogue, to get people pushing themselves in their art making, to spark connections. (And I’d have a couple art-making classes, as requested by several friends). I wanted a space that could morph into various forms so that I’d have the flexibility to curate shows sometimes, to sell my artwork and others’ artwork, to be an art space but a different kind of art space. And so that’s what I’ve set out to do at what I decided to call The Studio Mind.
Once I got my space all set up, I spent the rest of the summer mostly at home (again!), since my son was out of summer school for several weeks starting mid-July. During that time off, we went away on vacation (found a place that worked for our family!), and I set up the nitty-gritty of my business, like licenses, insurance, the website, blah blah blah.
So now it’s been almost a full year since my son began the most difficult several months of his life (going to regular fourth grade without getting any support because we didn’t know what was going on, then not having it in him to go anymore yet deeply missing his friends…) Now he’s in 5th grade, happy to be back at the school that’s oh-so-right for him, and I’m happy to be back doing the work I love.
And I’m excited! I have no idea if people will sign up for the classes I’m starting, but I think it’s worth trying. It might even take a few months to really get things going, but that’s fine. I’m looking forward to thinking, talking, doing more art art art. I hope this is a start of another something wonderful.
TTYL blog, hopefully sooner rather than later. Actually I have a few other things to say about how The Studio Mind came to be, so I might write you again soon after all.