Artists Find Their Muse at Studio 18 in the Pines
Unique, thoughtfully designed space liberates creative spirits
by Holly Strawbridge| printable version
Summer 2010| Volume XXIII, Number 2
Just west of North Perry Airport, nestled among rows of faceless concrete-block buildings, sits the most unique art community in South Florida. In this unlikely location, the City of Pembroke Pines has turned an old hospital laundry facility into a smashing new space for artists. Known as Studio 18 in the Pines, the facility was thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of serious artists looking for affordable studio and gallery space.
“There is nothing like it anywhere else in Broward County,” says jeweler and metalsmith Simone de Bernard Mas, one of the first artists to become a tenant. “The space gives me freedom. I can lay out my equipment, tools and materials, and relax and create,” she says.
With 18 inside studios ranging in size from 100 to 240 square feet and four outdoor studios, there’s a place to work on projects of any size and scale. De Bernard Mas leases a small studio with a large window and sink. Extra storage, should she need it, is located down the hall.
William Bock leases the studio across the hall from de Bernard Mas. He chose a large interior studio, so he can surround himself with his canvases.
Until he moved to Studio 18 in the Pines, Bock painted and taught in a room at the back of his Davie framing and art restoration business. It was convenient, but he finds Studio 18 ideal.
“I was looking for a place where I could create without the distractions of operating a business. Here, there are no phones, good lighting and other artists. It’s liberating,” he says.
An eight-year gestation
More than eight years ago, the City of Pembroke Pines sat down with the members of its Arts and Cultural Advisory Board to make plans for developing a sophisticated community of artists. With a budget of $1.5 million, they began researching locations throughout their area and even considered building from scratch. Then they stumbled on an 11,000-square-foot building that had been empty since the 1950s. It was an ugly duckling with all the makings of a swan.
“We planned every aspect of this building from scratch, gutted it and renovated it,” says Robyn Vegas, cultural arts coordinator for the City of Pembroke Pines. An artist herself, she guided the planning process by providing thoughtful details that would ultimately turn the building into a cultural destination.
The outcome was a space that comprises studios, a large gallery, classrooms and communal areas.
“Our hope was to create a vibrant community of artists who will inspire each other,” says Vegas.
Serious artists find the concept highly appealing.
“Artists tend to work in isolation. The opportunity to interact with other artists is a great thing,” says Bock.
De Bernard Mas agrees. “We speak the same language, even if we work in different mediums. It’s energizing to bounce ideas off each other,” she says.
All 18 studios have clear glass doors, which enable the artists to see each other and enhance the sense of community. When the artists are out, visitors can see works in progress. Vegas plans to install business-card holders next to each door, so that visitors can take the artists’ contact information.
The building has secure loading docks for unloading supplies, a kiln room for potters and is equipped for bottled gases, such as oxygen and propane.
Four 260-square-foot outside studios are available for welders, woodworkers, large-scale sculptors and others who need extra room for the creative process. The studios are covered by canopies to shield the artist and artwork from the elements. The spaces are equipped with spigots and electrical outlets, and a retractable canvas backdrop protects the building from overspray by chemicals or paint. Pods are supplied for storing raw materials, welding equipment and other not-so-delicate tools of the trade.
Creating a home and community
When Studio 18 in the Pines was in the planning process, the artist’s personal needs were also taken into consideration. “We spend hours here each day, and having a kitchen and bathrooms is great!” says de Bernard Mas.
The sense of community is heightened by extensive gallery space, two classrooms, a bulletin board for promoting local arts information and a kiosk for the artists’ biographies. Studio rental includes exhibits and full use of the building.
“Our artists can teach here for additional income, and we advertise classes and shows. The classrooms also give us a location to hold workshops, lectures and special presentations,” says Vegas.
To protect the artists and their creations, the building has a sophisticated security system. “I feel safe here, even at night,” says de Bernard Mas. “I can lock my door. It is very secure.”
Filling up fast
By March 1, when Studio 18 in the Pines opened, 10 artists had moved in. By May 5, another five applications were being reviewed and references checked.
“We jury applicants based on creativity, technique, skill, workmanship and aesthetic appeal and are selective. We are looking for mid-career and emerging artists, not hobbyists,” says Vegas.
Interestingly, the artists who have been approved reside all over South Florida. “We were not solely created for residents of the Pines. We were established for the cultural community of South Florida,” says Vegas.
Artists hope the success of Studio 18 in the Pines will prompt others to adopt the innovative concept. “Every city should have one of these. You can’t do this kind of work at home or in your garage,” says de Bernard Mas.For more information, contact Robyn Vegas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Studio in the Pines is located at 1101 Poinciana Drive in Pembroke Pines