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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Home studio or artists’ cooperative?

Would moving enhance your career? Probably not.

My former studio.
My first professional studio space was a corner of our kitchen. The light was good and it had a laminate floor. A few years later, we enclosed our garage, adding full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs and cat5 wiring.

Then we moved. I rented a space on the top floor of the Hungerford Building in Rochester. It was a large room facing east with beautiful light. Eventually I relocated my studio to the third floor of our house. This was a quirky, beautiful space with great light and lousy headroom. After a few years of bumping my head, I reshuffled my workspace in the former master bedroom at the head of the stairs. That studio was 325 square feet, large enough to teach six students. Here in Maine, I have a large, light room that’s about a third of the total square footage of my house.

My current studio.
A dedicated home studio seems less expensive, but that is an illusion. The median list price per square foot in the United States is $140, according to Zillow. Special-purpose industrial space averages $11.25 a square foot/year. My last studio’s only upgrade was a better lighting system, but that still cost me thousands of dollars.

It is only cheaper to work from home if you already have space to burn. For my friends in New York City, where space is at a premium, a rented studio is often a better option.

Will your projected art income can really cover an additional rent payment? A home studio is already wrapped into your current rent or mortgage. Renting a studio is cheaper than adding on, but the cheapest solution is to repurpose an underutilized space you’re already paying for.

A professional studio needs good light (natural and enhanced), adequate storage, room to work, a space for office work, wi-fi, and separation from other people and activity. If you’re teaching, you also need to consider access to a restroom, handicapped accessibility, and safety.

Storage is something we often fail to consider when calculating our space needs.
Art materials should be kept away from food prep areas. That’s especially true of pastels, which allow pigment to be airborne. Having said that, risks associated with oil paints are overstated. Still, the pigments in art supplies—and some solvents—aren’t good to ingest. I ran a whole-house air cleaner in my first house.

I need an orderly environment. It’s difficult for me to pick up my brushes when there are dishes in the sink. I don’t like visitors to my studio. It was that need for order that drove me to a rented studio when my kids were little. However, I found myself leaving work every afternoon at 3:30 when my youngest child got home from school. I had more flexibility than my husband, who worked from an office. 

Is the neighborhood in which your cooperative studio is located really safe? In Rochester, my studio was on the fringes of a tough neighborhood. I could work late at night in my locked studio; the parking lot and corridors were the problem.

325 square feet was sufficient to teach six students.
How introverted are you? Some artists are challenged and motivated by other artists nearby. Others find community to be a distraction. However, the network you build in an artist’s cooperative can be invaluable; so too can their cooperative art shows.

Will an outside studio enhance your career? Unless you’re in a prestigious cooperative, no. Neither gallerists nor potential clients judge you by your address; they care about your work.

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