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Art Therapy: Rent’s Too Damn High

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Dear Bmoreart Therapist,

I am a 26 year old female artist renting a spacious studio in Station North. I am a painter and I share the space with three other artists. Our studio is gorgeous – huge windows with great views of the city, wood floors, a semi-working sink, and is, mostly, relatively chemical free. I have rented the space for the past two years and, originally, it was affordable. The first year the space was $1000, so we each paid $250 plus utilities. The next year, our landlord raised our rent to $1200, which sucked but we still paid it. This year, the landlord wants (says he needs) to go up to $1300 a month, which is cheap for NY but ridiculous for Baltimore. Maybe it would be ok if I had a real job, but I work in the food industry service and I don’t sell enough art work to cover the extra expense.

I am thinking of moving my studio to my house. There is a large, dry basement with a few decent walls and I can buy some lights. My question is this: Does your studio appearance, apart from your work, reflect back on the artist? I am concerned that curators and other studio visitors, who were once impressed with my ‘cool’ warehouse studio, will think my basement is amateurish and lame. I am worried that, if I switch to a home studio, I’m giving up some of my credibility as an artist.

Should I bite the bullet and expect to pay more studio rent each year, or is it ok to move my studio home and use that money for art supplies?

Thanks,

Rent’s Too Damn High, Baltimore

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Dear Rent’s Too Damn High,

I appreciate your concern. I have to tell you – I have conducted my fair share of studio visits and they have run the gamut from swanky artist loft space to dingy closets. At some studio visits, I have been served fresh squeezed lemonade, baked-from-scratch scones, and given glossy artist brochures, while at another I was seated next to fresh cat poop for the duration of an artist’s presentation. Seriously. There are as many types of studios as there are artists. Although it’s great to act the part of the artist and project your inner coolness onto your art space, this is an unnecessary expense, if you have a better or less expensive option.

I have seen amazing works of art in basements, spare bedrooms, and garages and I have seen god-awful crap in slick and professional-looking studios. For me, there is no correlation between the ‘studio-ness’ of the studio and the quality of the artwork. When I visit an artist’s studio, I’m looking for evidence of a serious and intelligent practice, and an artist who can talk confidently and accurately about their work. It sounds like you might be better off investing the extra dollars in new supplies, equipment, and even save some for a residency or workshop.

I’m not saying that it will be perfect keeping a studio in your house. One of the best things about communal studios is the community, dialogue, and healthy competition that keeps you energized as an artist. You also benefit from greater foot traffic at a group studio – when one studio mate brings in a curator or critic, you are positioned to benefit from that exposure. I think it is important, in any situation, to consider the pros and cons, decide what the pros are worth to you, and move ahead accordingly. It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind, but are simply asking permission. In that case, go for it. And please, if you have cats nearby, keep that litterbox clean.

Bmoreart Therapist

send your quandries, questions, and art-related rants to: Bmoreart@gmail.com with ‘Art Therapy’ in the headline.

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