BY TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
Getting a foothold as an artist can be a difficult proposition. Just finding the funds for materials can sometimes be daunting. The rent for studio space or venues for shows can be beyond reach. One DIY solution that has emerged over the past decade is the creation of incubator spaces where artists come together to share costs.
Since 2008, metal sculptor Adam Nahas has encouraged Bloomington-area artists to pool their resources and reduce their collective material burden. He began with a small group called The Blank Canvas, then later opened the Trained Eye Arts Center. In 2014, Nahas founded Artisan Alley, a cooperative.
“When we started, we were a group of Indiana University students who were used to having all of these resources at our fingertips,” Nahas says. “The moment you leave school, you’ve got to start over.”
Artisan Alley has three locations that house studio space for more than 50 artists and craftspeople. Two of its locations neighbor each other in an industrial area on South Rogers Street, where Dimensions Gallery, a DIY music and film venue called The Void, and a classroom and event room called The Flex Space are housed.
The Burl and Ingot Tool Library, where artisans can purchase passes or memberships to use equipment, is part of the Rogers Street complex. It’s like a gym membership for metalsmiths and woodworkers. Artists can teach and learn new skills, and the public is invited to free instructional sessions on Metal Mondays, Wood Wednesdays, and Fiber Fridays.
Artisan Alley’s newer Second Street location has a less industrial feel. In addition to private studios, it has a co-working space, a conference room and gallery, and the MADE Consignment Shop, featuring handcrafted gifts. Nahas says each studio is arranged according to individual needs, and says he cuts better deals with those who make longer-term plans to stay in the properties. But ultimately, Nahas sees the studio spaces as temporary stops for those on their way to running their own successful, creative businesses.
“We are trying to simplify the business of being an artist,” says Nahas. “Artists can come here and grow, and if they expand outside of us, that’s great—that means we’ve done our job.”
For information, visit artisanalley.com.