published Friday, January 25th, 2013

Former assisted-living space becoming artist studios

Crews are clearing out the inside of the former St. Barnabas assisted-living building on Sixth Street, across from the downtown YMCA. Chris Thomas said he expects to move in the first tenant by early February.
Crews are clearing out the inside of the former St. Barnabas assisted-living building on Sixth Street, across from the downtown YMCA. Chris Thomas said he expects to move in the first tenant by early February.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    Artist Molly Hussey, whose paintings include works such as this one, moved to Chattanooga from Memphis with her husband last year. She is looking forward to having dedicated studio space away from her home to focus on her work.

RATES

Chattanooga WorkSpace

(Prices are tentative)

* Per day: $25

* Per month: $200, includes access around the clock

* Meeting and training rooms available for half- and full-day rates

Chattanooga ArtSpace

(Prices are tentative)

• Target studio size is 25x17 ($465 per month)

• Smaller studio size is 14x17 ($235-$265 per month)

• Two large bookend studios available per floor, ($495-$645 per month)

• Includes normal water, electric and Wi-Fi

Who's in so far

A sampling of the artists who have signed on to rent studios at Chattanooga WorkSpace and ArtSpace

* Eric Finley (works under the name SEVEN): Visual artist, graphic designer, illustrator, painter

* Alexa Lett: Mixed media and embroidery art

* Steven Llorca: Photographer/visual artist

* Julie Whitehead Jones, Dye Worx: Textiles

* Regina Gargus: Pottery

* Ali Kay: Painter

* Ever Flanigan: Primarily photography

* Molly Hussey: Painter/sculptor

* Nicole Newman: Sculptor/visual artist

Molly Hussey has dozens of ideas for new paintings and sculpture pieces in her sketchbooks, but her brushes, paints and other art-making materials are boxed up and in storage.

So she's anxiously awaiting the completion of Chattanooga WorkSpace and ArtSpace where she can get to work inside her own dedicated studio.

"Frankly, I need a place where I can dedicate all of my energies to my work," she says. "Having a dedicated place to go will make me more productive and disciplined. When at my house I got distracted."

Hussey is one of 36 artists and several dozen or so others who will use the WorkSpaces to create everything from tie-dyed clothing to computer software to poetry.

Housed inside the former St. Barnabas assisted-living building on Sixth Street, across from the downtown YMCA, the four-story building is being renovated under the supervision of Chattanooga Market Executive Director Chris Thomas.

Thomas says that he and his staff have more than 50 applicants for the spaces, and he hopes to move the first tenant in by early February. Only a small number of the artists who plan to rent space are Chattanooga Market vendors, he says.

"This is the coolest thing I've ever done," he says during a recent tour.

Thomas, who owns Palo Dura Records which has offices in Texas and Ooltewah, says he has been thinking about operating such a facility since purchasing the Chattanooga Market in 2008. His new venture is similar to the Rivoli Art Mill on Dodds Avenue, which opened in 2005.

Anne Willson, executive director for the Association for Visual Arts, says the city has worked hard over the last several years to attract artists from out of town and the addition of Chattanooga WorkSpace and ArtSpace will help keep them here.

"I think it is great," she says. "Whether it's a workspace or studios, having a collective environment works to encourage the sense of community."

The building itself is owned by partners Bob McKenzie, John Clark and David Hudson, who are developing the old St. Barnabas Apartments for senior citizens, located next to Workspace/ArtSpace, into an 108-unit complex serving primarily young professionals.

In the assisted living building, the former dining room area is being transformed into a WorkSpace area with a coffee bar and plenty of tables where someone can come in for a few hours to work on a laptop or on a sketchpad in a quiet environment. The tables are being made of some of the solid maple doors that once hung in the buildings rooms.

"I see it as sort of a college-library type of environment," Thomas says. "It's for the person who doesn't like to work at home all day or who wants to be around other creative people."

WorkSpace renters will have access to spaces for meeting clients and collegues and for seminars or training. Wi-Fi, printers, copiers, the coffee bar and other business tools also will be available and users can rent by the day or the month with no long-term lease required, Thomas says.

The ArtSpace studios are on the upper three floors, with single and double studios are available. The spaces are not intended to be used for retail sales, but special events might be planned throughout the year, Thomas says.

Hussey says part of the reason her family moved here last year was the community support for the arts in Chattanooga and for the new adventures available to her children.

"We love Chattanooga and the opportunities that are here," she says.

Painter Ali Kay is moving to Chattanooga from Houston next month with her husband and will rent one of the studio spaces. She says she has a home studio in Houston where she creates large murals for businesses. She has rented studio space before during her career and is looking forward to being in a building with other artists.

"I think being self-employed and having a separation between your home and work can be a good thing," she says. "Also, being new to the area, being there will help me network and meet people in the arts community."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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