In New York City, an entity called Spaceworks is working to develop long-term affordable rehearsal and studio space.
This month, Paul Parkhill, Executive Director of Spaceworks, talks to ArtPlace about forging partnerships with local organizations and seeking guidance from artists about best design practices to move Spaceworks forward.
ARTPLACE: In recent years, open studio events have proven incredibly successful in integrating art studios into their surrounding communities. What programming and partnership strategies does Spaceworks plan to implement to maximize the creative placemaking impact of the Spaceworks initiative?
PARKHILL: An important component of the Spaceworks model is integration with the surrounding neighborhood through organized public programs and collaborations with local cultural organization partners. These activities are intended to strengthen ties to the community, generate new economic activity and contribute to the social and civic vitality of the City. To that end, we anticipate that open studios will play an important role in our visual art projects, and we also hope to create informal mechanisms for providing public access to the creative process of performing artists. But getting the public into our buildings is only half the battle; we are also interested in getting artists out into neighborhoods, where there are plenty of people who would never attend an open studio event.
Since Spaceworks is developing permanent workspace and not residency programs, we have to find ways to create opportunities for this kind of two-way interaction while simultaneously giving artists a significant amount of freedom to choose how and when this kind of interaction will occur.
ARTPLACE: You’re seeking guidance from working artists during the Spaceworks planning process. Have you received feedback or learned anything in particular about designing spaces for this dynamic population?
PARKHILL: Designing for creative activity is a challenging business, not least because it’s easy to overthink it. Artists can, and frequently do, make incredible work in spaces that were never anticipated as art space: not just factories, but church basements, parks, community gardens, office buildings, etc.
Spaceworks has several buildings in predevelopment that have remarkable histories and a variety of interesting architectural attributes, which I think will be compelling to the people who rent space there. That said, most of the artists I’ve met are basically Modernists when it comes to work space: form follows function.
We have also been thinking about the need for common spaces in our projects. Offering spaces to eat, take a break, meet other artists, and potentially display work on occasion, helps foster not just interaction but a sense of community and purpose. Depending on the project, I think there will be some exciting opportunities to let artists take more of a direct hand in shaping common spaces as well, primarily by integrating art directly into the build-out of the space. It’s not just about personalizing the space, it’s really about defining the buildings by the artists who use them.
RENDERING: Monte Antrim