While some artists may live and create work in the same space, it can be difficult to stay organized and motivated. A separate space designed for art making can be make you more efficient and productive. However, it can be very challenging in find and afford your own space. Locating a studio in your price range with the amount of space you want and need, especially in dense urban areas, can be tricky if not impossible. Many artists have resorted to doubling (or tripling!) up to share available spaces. Finding an assessable art studio space can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Discussions with artists who have shared studios have led to some key insights into the best ways to approach shared studio space. One hint? Look at it as an opportunity, and above all, explore ways to make it work for you.
Finding the Right Studio-mate
If you’re seeking more square footage in highly sought-after areas, you may find some studio spaces unaffordable. One suitable compromise is to find another artist to occupy an your studio either at times when you’re not available to work onsite or by divide the space in a way that fits each artist’s respective practice. Most important, though, is personal chemistry: How do you like the other artist in your shared space? Is the artist you would be sharing with a personal friend or friend-of-a-friend? A complete stranger?
The sweet spot, as with roommates, seems to fall in the middle: someone you know, but don’t spend every waking moment around. If you are considering someone you know casually or barely know as your potential studio mate, it would benefit you both to sit down somewhere for a casual cup of coffee to chat about boundaries. By understanding what the expectations are in times of pricing and timing at your shared art studio space, miscommunication can be avoided farther down the line.
Artist/Professor Erin Treacy says that she met the right artist first that fit her shared art studio space requirements, then began searching for places in earnest. “Sharing a space can be difficult, but finding personalities that match is key. I’ve had shared spaces where we built walls to separate our things, but I felt like it got too confined…now, I found a good match and we are sharing a large studio and…have just divided the space with flatfiles [which] feels much more comfortable. We worked out times when we will work so that we have alone time in the space, but we could also be there at the same time.”
Treacy notes of her shared art studio space partner that she works in another medium on a smaller scale, thereby freeing up more space for Treacy’s larger paintings. They’ve also compromised so that they each split the rent based on the square footage each uses, respectively.
By clarifying the shared use of art studio space, artists can be budget-savvy while also securing great location and volume of space to both work in and display finished art to guests. Clear communication channels are the first step toward this end goal, but there are other factors at play as well.
Access to Resources and Networks
Another strategic use of studio space is to find a location where you can be part of a greater community or artist network. Examples in L.A. include the Keystone Arts Building and The Brewery Artist Lofts. New York has several specific studio buildings, with some nonprofits offering subsidized rates and/or gallery exhibitions as a part of a studio residency. In Manhattan, EFA Studios offers limited studios for artists and printmakers, as does Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, while Brooklyn’s BRIC and NurtureArt serve in similar roles supporting artist studios.
Situating your practice within a building or alongside an organization with a wider bandwidth and diverse artist network will expose your artwork to new audiences and opportunities. It’s worth considering how permanent you want your space to be, as many of these opportunities are temporary, but the artist network you build within your time in these spaces can be priceless. While technically not “sharing” your art studio space in terms of dividing space at these locations, you’ll be dealing with a greater volume of visitors and responsibilities at these spaces. You’ll also be connecting more closely with an artist network sharing these community sites, and hopefully, be tapped into new opportunities for advancement.
Along with associating your work with recognizable nonprofits, building a roster of high-caliber studio neighbors can be another great benefit to considering where and how you share art studio space. Artist/Professor Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow notes of her time at the prominent 5Pointz art space, formerly located in Long Island City, Queens, that she was able to build and grow her artist network while sharing her space with a variety of other artists.
“I shared a few studios with several people over the course of about four years, sharing my first space with a painter whom I went to grad school [with, then] I later shared a space with my close friend, photographer, and fashion designer, Jenny Ham,” she notes. Lynn-Kee-Chow was also impressed by the sense of connectedness she experienced while there. “The community was really supportive and tight-knit,” she notes, echoing the benefits that come with carefully selected studio buildings and artist communities.
Another easy to overlook aspect of sharing intimate art studio space is the connections arising from conversations with your studio mate(s). Whether they work in a similar vein to your practice or in an entirely different field, by sharing news on opportunities you are both applying for, events you’re attending or even insights into professional connections you’ve each worked with, your practice will benefit from increased exposure and awareness of key “players” in your arts community.
Art Studio Sharing Troubles
Of course, becoming a part of a studio community or sharing a confined art studio space can inconvenient and frustrating at times. There may be moments when you arrive ready to work in the studio and your studio mate has overtaken the space. Or you may have a studio visit set up and arrive to find a group of people mingling in your space. You can’t mention shared art studio space without a whisper of “awkward” in the same breath; but what’s wrong with that? Life can get awkward, and by crossing paths in the studio you will better learn how to respect one another’s space and better prepare for similar circumstances in the future.
Of course, while everyone experiences growing pains when sharing art studio space, a lack of respect on either side can sever an otherwise good working relationship. Always be sure to extend the same courtesy to your shared space partner as you expect yourself, and understand that, when a line has been crossed, it is time to respect your practice by seeking space elsewhere.
While there are drawbacks and comprises, sharing an art studio space and accepting shared responsibilities in collective spaces can be a great benefit grown your network and community. It’s a great alternative for to cut down on costs without sacrificing location. The benefits of shared studios can outweigh the setbacks if artists are flexible and amenable to working alongside others. The older sibling of today’s ubiquitous co-working spaces, art studio space shares prove that artists are ahead of the game when it comes to maximizing savings and space – and offer a new world of opportunities for those eagle-eyed enough to spot it!
Have you shared an art studio before? Was it a positive experience or did you find it challenging? What tips do you have to get along with your studio mate?
Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor.