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Art Business

The Pros and Cons of Sharing an Art Studio Space

A solid art studio space is among the first requirements for most artists. Regardless of artistic medium, artists need room in which to sketch, store materials and display work for studio visits. While some artists may live and work in the same space, it is often especially important for artists in urban areas to separate living and working spaces. This division can prove key to having an efficient, organized work environment in your art studio space. Whether an artist’s work requires mixed media and paint or just a capable and dedicated art studio space for a computer or drafting board, an artist’s studio is their cherished space of genesis: an incubator for creative capacity.

While art studio space is a key priority, artists often face challenges in finding their own space. Whether securing the right slice of real estate for one’s budget or preferred footprint can be challenging, many artists have resorted to doubling (or tripling!) up to share available spaces. Particularly in urban centers where artists are seeking high-profile visitors, finding an easy-to-visit art studio space can feel like looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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, above all, and dig into various ways to make it work for you!

art studio space
Your studio mates should be people you’re friendly with but not necessarily too involved.

Shared Spaces Make Good Neighbors

Artists seeking larger square footage in highly sought areas often find themselves either sacrificing with their wallet or their volume of artistic output. One suitable compromise is to find another artist to occupy an art studio space either at times when you’re not available to work onsite or to 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.

artist network
Working in a building or organization with a network of diverse artists can open you up to new audiences and opportunities.

Building 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 space
Give others and yourself the respect you deserve; be willing to leave if your space is not being respected.

Sharing With Setbacks

Of course, becoming a part of a studio community or sharing a confined art studio space can be draining at times, if not outright overwhelming. There may be moments when you arrive ready to work in the studio and your studio mate has overtaken the space with a “quick” project. 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 the drawbacks are there, sharing art studio space and accepting studios in spaces with sharing responsibilities can be a great benefit to artists new to a community. It’s a great alternative for an artist looking to expand their artist network or 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!

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About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is an independent curator and art critic based in New York, NY. The founder of Antecedent Projects (2014), a sustainable urban curatorial consultancy investigating site-specific heritage, and is Editor-in-Chief, ANTE. Mag. Lambert manages ART360 by Orangenius, an immersive, 3-D art viewing experience, and serves as Managing Editor, Artrepreneur.

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  • I love what you said about choosing someone to share a space with that you know but don’t spend every waking moment around. My friend is an artist and is looking for a studio art space where she can work without her house getting underfoot, so to speak. Thank you for the information about how she should sit and enjoy a coffee or something with a potential studio mate and discuss boundaries so everyone’s on the same page.