Made for Walking

So there's an old shoe factory here! And people are turning it into an arts center! Which is kind of amazing! Especially because there isn't much here! Yay! Walk-In Art Center in Schuylkill Haven, PA is set to be a (can't help it) haven for local artists. The space will soon offer studios for rent, exhibition space, art classes and eventually things such as music studios. The value in arts spaces like this is so important and, after travelling around in an artistic capacity and seeing many similar facilities along the eastcoast, it is really strange to see the different models that exist.

At the top of the list of what we have seen is definitely Silver Mine Arts Center in Connecticut where the facilities range from bronze casting to photo development to printing presses. Their gallery space in incredible, there is a huge vaulted performance area (which we performed in! And Ryder Cooley is doing a show in too!), the range of classes is huge, o, and did I mention it sits atop a little lake in a quiet wooded neighborhood? They are even delving into residency territory too allowing for Brent & I to head back at some point to make a project on site for display in the gorgeous old barn museum, I really can't wait! Then there is sort of the opposite of this kind of place...the scrappy excitement of 3rd Ward! 3rd Ward in Brooklyn (and soon in Philadelphia too!) follows a kind of cooperative style with classes being offered from locals (bike repair, upholstery, knitting) and all kind of spaces to work in (photo studios, metal shop, jewelry shop). I haven't been there in ages but the last time I was I saw Lightning Bolt rock the factory space, art cling to the walls, beer (and people) flying about all while firemen nicely and slowly shooed people off of fire escapes. Good times and sustainability for those working in the arts are always available at 3rd Ward, so glad they have grown into a wildly profitable, expanding business!

Also in Brooklyn, and more on the low-key side of things is Gowanus Artists Space (a place we fabricated a bit of the Berkeley sculpture in since they have metal working space close to our master welder friend, in addition to a wood shop, big enough doors to accommodate our needs and studio spaces that are more private so as to not bother others working), is a great resource of this type as well, the perfect spot for a low-key freelancer! Then there are places like Goggleworks (that has ample studio space for rent, a cafe, a store featuring artist's crafts, large exhibition areas, dance rooms, office space for lots of local nonprofits, equipment of all kinds and even a movie theater showcasing not so Hollywood- Hollywood movies) and ArtsQuest (a former steel foundry turned art space, music venue, state-of-the-art movie house) which are both in Pennsylvania and who are using the abundance of unused real estate out here to the maximum advantage while trying to lure people from all areas with constant events. There is also Space 1026 , more of a collective environment whose motto is "Do it yourself with other people," in Philly. Space 1026 also offers studio space, a lot of silk screening and reallllly well curated shows. Their yearly tradition of making elaborate costumes, choreographed dance routines and general awesomeness for a performance in the New Years Mummers Parade  went off amazingly this year! The theme? Mummers in Space: the Phinal Phrontier of course.

I guess what I am getting at here is that art spaces like the one being built nearby our barn can offer so much to a community. I think the trick though is to really listen to what the community needs. New York? SPACE! Philly? A place to be seen/have a supportive network/make things bigger with & for the people. Connecticut? Some higher end offerings for the probably already enriched patrons (did I mention Keith Richards lived nearby Silvermine? O, and Paul Simon?). I do hope that Walk In (bottom pictures) flourishes to become a great place for artists and art lovers in general, keeping in mind what is valuable to making our town stronger. Being so close to NY (a reason I relocated out here for sure!) makes a residency program seem ideal, the access to tools, teachers & people is another thing I find important in the pretty secluded rural life, and bringing patrons into the community to help create a better local economy (the empty storefront to store ratio in the area of Walk In is a little on the sad side) are all goals I hope this place is working towards. Art spaces like these, and like the culture centers I have applauded before, offer glimpses into a utopia, meeting places for people to be creative, think and maybe push things in a more positive direction across the board while also boosting a regions sagging spirits. Good luck to Walk In and special thanks to Michelle for giving us a little after hours tour of the raw space in it's beginnings!



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.