Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ten Minutes with Lydia Walker of Studio 15 (Part One)

I've been a big supporter of the Phantom Galleries Superior project in which artists utilize empty building space for short term art shows in order to keep downtown vibrant, and not full of abandoned buildings. Duluth has taken a different but similar approach to keep empty spaces from accumulating downtown. By a variation of this, Duluth through its Pop Up Spaces program has helped several arts related businesses thrive, several of them in what has now been designated a historic arts and theater district.

On Third Avenue West, an empty space half way up to First Street has been utilized as an art space by a group called Studio 15, spearheaded by Lydia Walker, formerly of the Pineapple Arts team. Two or three years ago a similar venture was undertaken, but this time it appears to have stronger roots in the community and a very active advocate in Walker.

Studio 15 opened on small business Saturday last November during Thanksgiving weekend. Lydia Walker has been active ever since in making Studio 15 a fun place to be creative. In addition to hosting art exhibitions, Studio 15 has been hosting a number of classes for kids and adults. Besides fine art and wall art they have creative original products for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas.

This is part one of my interview with Lydia.

EN: What motivated you to start Studio 15?
LW: I started with the idea to create a space for myself to make art, teach classes, and share my art with others. Upon looking further into this idea and examining it more I began to think about how much need there is in our community for spaces like I wanted to myself and decided to create a space that would not just fill this need for myself but fill this need for others as well. Before I opened it I started asking others in the art community if they also felt the need for such spaces in our community. I reached out to feel out what others in the community felt they wanted and needed. Then I began trying to create such a space.

I couldn't have done it without the help and push from my Uncle, Greg Follmer, who started seeking out spaces and pushed me to continue to look past myself to this larger view I was exploring and directed me to the Pop Up Spaces the Greater Downtown Counsel was proving to business plans they selected, which Studio 15 was one of these spaces.

EN: What are some of the activities that take place there?
LW: Studio 15 has moved beyond just my vision for the space and taken on a life of it's own as it has begun to fill with artists. There are 3 artists’ studio spaces for rent not including my own. 2 of these are filled. One by the painter Rachel Eisenmann and the other with the member of the band Gin Street, where they and other local bands they work with practice. These spaces are private spaces to create in as a person sees fit. We have one that is just going back up for rent this month. There are also all ages concerts, typically 2-4 a month, with both local and out of town bands looking to reach a crowd that goes beyond the local bar scene.

There are the two gallery rooms featuring art and hand made gifts by local artists that are available for purchase and this is open Monday through Saturday. We are often looking for new art for these rooms as they change up monthly and we typically have work from 15-25 various artists on display and for sale. The main two gallery rooms are broken up where one features work for various artists who just have a few pieces there and the other has a themed show or featured artist. We are open to working with artists that are experienced in showing their work as well as new to this, helping them learn what it takes to have work in a gallery, a place to start building their artist resume.

We don't require a resume or a finished portfolio to get into our gallery, as many places do, as that is a hurdle that many artists struggle with. Instead we require they show us some type of samples of work they want to display. We have monthly gallery openings to showcase our artists, often on the second Friday of the month but not always. Additionally, we have regular art classes that range from kids classes that can even accommodate toddlers to adult technique classes. Many of these classes are taught by myself (EdNote: Walker has a BA in studio arts and a masters in art therapy and has worked both in schools and in community settings teaching classes.) We also offer space for community artists to host their classes. Types of classes we have held and do regularly are drawing techniques, dying paper, life casting, painting, kids sensory arts, and the list goes on. Additionally, as an art therapist I go to art therapy classes both in groups and one on one where one learns how to do an art activity or about an art technique and they also learn how to use that to relax and benefit their mental health. We also do a monthly all ages open Mic, game night, and art potluck brunch. Wow... as I type this all up I see we do a lot!


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