Most of us, in our workplaces, take little things like adequate heat and workspace for granted. But artists aren’t always so lucky.
Affordable studio space is hard to come by in Seattle, and it’s a battle to find what you need.
For the 30 or so artists at Magnuson Park’s Building 30, that battle is over.
Building 30, which went through a $9 million renovation last year, is the crowning achievement so far of the nonprofit Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange (SPACE).
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The public can check it out Sunday when SPACE holds an open house from noon to 5 p.m.
Artists will be on hand to show their work. The Officers Club, a third-floor event space, will also be open — complete with its original Art Deco bar, spiffed up good as new (although not serving drinks yet).
How do the artists like it?
“This is pretty gourmet,” painter Joe Max Emminger said. “There’s parking, heat.”
Annual rents range from $12 per square foot for windowless space to $16 for studios with windows. That translates to $3,624 per year for the smallest, cheapest space, to $16,976 per year for 1,061 square feet with windows. Most of the artists in Building 30 say those rates are lower than comparable spaces in the city, and the facility is in much better shape than anything they could afford to rent commercially. The 32 studios are all filled, and there’s a waiting list of 21 artists hoping to get in.
A quick recap of the building’s history:
It was built in 1938 as part of Naval Air Station Seattle. NAS Seattle turned over all of its facilities to Seattle and the University of Washington by 1995. In 1994, SPACE was formed with the aim of supporting “arts and cultural uses of Warren G. Magnuson Park for the public.”
Executive Director Julianna Ross has volunteered part time with SPACE since 2002 and became its official director in January 2013. The city of Seattle owns Building 30, and the artists and SPACE pay rent. The Officers Club is available to rent for $80 an hour.
All revenues go toward paying off a $9 million bond the city issued to finance the renovation.
Ross hopes eventually to get paid for her efforts, and plans are afoot to create a fully funded and sustainable salaried position for her by 2016. But SPACE is clearly a labor of love for her.
“It’s historic preservation and arts and culture,” she said. “I just had to be involved. I had no idea what challenges lay ahead, but I completely believed in the mission.”
Twenty years seems a long time to go from a drawing-board idea to an actual functioning art-studio complex. The delays were due to how much work was needed to bring the buildings at the site up to code. Building 30, for instance, needed a seismic upgrade. Artists finally moved in last November.
Artists in every medium and at every stage of their careers occupy Building 30. Abstract painter Amália Couto, whose huge acrylics on canvas depict islands and strips of color against different backgrounds, says her new setup doesn’t just provide her with a larger, cheaper space than before, but gives her work new exposure.
“Having the client come here,” she said, “is going to be just wonderful.”
Printmaker Ellen Rutledge echoed that feeling: “The way art is sold is changing. Having a place like this, where you can have open studios and show your own work, is very important.”
Right now, two open studio days per year are planned, with a possibility of expanding that to four. On July 17, Building 30’s Magnuson Park Gallery opens. Gallery hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and by appointment.
Most artists in the building have business licenses — a city requirement if selling work out of the studio during open houses — and they’re serious about being professionals.
Sandy Bricel Miller uses her space, Red Ocher Art Studio, as a classroom as well as her personal art studio.
“I teach drawing, painting, some ceramics, printmaking,” she said. “So far I’m breaking even.”
She’s optimistic she can turn a profit within the next couple of years.
Apart from the pragmatic advantages of having a studio in Building 30, there are the surroundings to savor.
“Oh my goodness, Sand Point!” painter Caroline Rousseau exclaimed. “The colors, the blues, the greens, the park … everything is just like a Candy Land for a palette. For me it’s just bliss because if I get stumped or I feel stifled, I can simply go out and walk around to the other end of the park, get some fresh air, look at a sailboat, look at the water and the sky and the different greenery.”
While visual arts dominate Building 30, Ross has plans for readings and music recitals in The Officers Club.
“We want to do programming for the whole community,” she said, “and make arts healthy at the park.”
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org