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Chattanooga WorkSpace, founded in 2013 by Chris Thomas as a communal place for local creatives to have studio spaces, will cease operation as of April 30. Whether the more than a dozen artists stay and continue renting from ViaNova Development, owners of the building is uncertain.

Artist Ali Kay has been creating her paintings inside a studio space rented in the old hospital on 6th Avenue since Chattanooga WorkSpace was created. She doesn't want to leave, but said she can't work with an inch of water on the floor of her space, and isn't sure it will be fixed anytime soon.

For the last two years, Kay has rented a new larger addition to the building where she both paints and hosts classes. In February, the roof was removed to fix a leak and it hasn't been replaced.

"I have a tarp and an inch of water in my studio," she said.

Thomas said he has been in discussions with ViaNova for months about making such repairs without much satisfaction, and has decided to move on rather than continue the fight.

"The value of the partnership is not there," he said.

Thomas said there are details that have to be handled, such as getting the utilities and fire safety equipment taken out of the WorkSpace name, and that could take time and render the building unsafe for the artists to use. Thomas didn't know what the artists currently in the building would do, "and we are certainly not trying to stand in their way whatever they choose to do."

Kay said she got an email from ViaNova Development saying she was welcome to continue renting the space, as is, and that the roof would not be repaired.

"I want this to all go away and work out for all of the artists and this community that we have built up. I don't want to leave."

Chattanooga WorkSpace is located in renovated spaces that were once examination rooms and medical care rooms at the old St. Barnabas apartment and assisted living complex on Sixth Street across from the downtown YMCA. The four-story building is now is home to painters, photographers, mixed media artists and cooks.

It does not have living spaces, but has 36 studio spaces ranging in size from a couple hundred square feet to more than 1,800 square feet. Monthly rent ranges from just over $100 to almost $3,000. Utilities and internet are included and finding a single space for a reasonable price with utilities included is tough enough, but artist like Hollie Berry say there many other perks to renting there.

Berry shares a double studio space and has two large storage closests in the building, as well. She works in multiple mediums but of late she primarily uses fire from a propane burner to create works of art on wood. She said she has been considering working from home for a couple of years, but that the WorkSpace environment has a lot of pluses, the least of which is not working "with fire in a big, old wooden house.

"I did the math figuring out how much revenue I get from sales during Open Studio nights and from the people who come by for tours, and it makes sense to stay," Berry said.

She and Kay both said have received emails from ViaNova, which did not returns requests for comment, saying they can stay, but details such as cost, have not been discussed.

"I'm not making a decision yet," Berry said.

She said the studios help the artists feel a sense of community similar to what people who work in offices feel.

"People bring in fresh tomatoes from their gardens, we have white elephant gift exchanges at Christmas," she said.

Also, it is easier to bring clients to a studio than to her home or a local coffee shop.

"Having a studio gives an artist validity, to be honest. Some people think if you work from home, it's just a hobby or something, unfortunately."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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