I have had a variety of workspaces during my stay. Three if I don’t count the trains, apartments, hotel rooms, and bars where I continued to work when a “studio” was not available or accessible. Fortunately, for me and the project, I developed portable work strategies prior to my art residency in the Netherlands. Lack of studio space has been a chronic problem in Los Angeles where real estate and gentrification is high. Working portable with non-traditional materials made the difference between the project realizing success and it being a complete waste of time. The initial residency space was not equipped to provide artists working with traditional materials a way to work. It lacked tools, facilties, and resources to construct even the most basic work. What it did have was an abundance of space.
Upon our arrival to the art residency, 5 April, we were shown our living space but no mention was made of a work space. At the time there were 10 -14 students from an Amsterdam art academy who were also utilizing the building. Some were working and living there, others only working and a few using it for storage. There was a communal kitchen comprised of a small refrigerator, two burner electric hot plate, sink, dishes, glasses, utensils, coffee pot, and tea kettle. The area was stacked with dirty dishes, old food, trash, and empty food and drink containers. Our contact provied us with an edited version of this kitchen near our living space – two burner electric hot plate, tea kettle, coffee pot, dishes, utensils, and a sink without water connections (later we stumbled upon a small working refrigerator we relocated to our “kitchen”).
Living Space at Art Residency
(If you look closely at the photo on the right there is a door in the background. Behind this door is a room with a furnace and gas meter. It had two windows, was warm, and aproximately 200 sqaure feet. After re-locating a student’s project and supplies I set-up my studio in it.)
Clean-up was a bit challenging as there were only two very small bathroom sinks and one shower in the wing we were in. I could have cleaned my screens in the shower but as it was the only shower facilties for all the residents of the whole building I did not want to dirty it with textile ink. There was a small paint sink located in another section of the building.
On 16 May I moved my work space from the furnace room to the chapel, the exhibition space of the organization providing the housing and workspace. A large, open, bright and airy space, I, suprisingly, found refuge in a church.
Setting it up as a workspace consideration had to be made for the public as an open studio was scheduled for 20 May. Prior to my arrival in the Netherlands I had hoped to have a public workspace where visitors and passerbys could stop in, discuss the project and participate in art making. With a very minimal social network I envisioned this as a strategy to expand my social connections in a city and country where I knew almost no one and with an interest in demystifying the art process I was looking forward to working in a “public” studio.
It seemed to be working out until a meeting with the architect, demolition head, project manager, and another fellow on Thursday, 24 May changed everything. Immediately, we had to re-think our position and the only way to do this was to leave. We headed to Amsterdam for privavcy and a chance to discuss the situation and our options.
Friday, 25 May the arts organization representative presented a few options:
One, we could relocate to the wing of the building that was to remain intact. The kitchen could be relocated (simple enough as it doesn’t take much to unplug a hot plate and tea kettle) and they could transform one of the toilets into a shower by Tuesday (it was the Friday of a three day holiday weekend). We were a bit perplexed as earlier in the week we were told there was not any money in the budget to cover the cost of printing a postcard for the exhibition, approximately, 100 euros, but maybe the students they “hired” and were paying with a free room had special shower building skills.
Two, we could move into the apartment of the director, husband and infant daughter who were out of the country but would be returning before we were leaving.
Three, they would pay for us to move into a bed and breakfast. A bit difficult to make art in as well a bit confusing of an offer as aforementioned 100 euros was hard to come by.
What really was at stake, certainly, not art or an exhibition?
We still had to relocate the brewery to continue to brew. Here’s two photos illustrating their solution.
It was on the ground floor, cool, and dark, exactly what a good location for a brewery needs but it was also a storage spot for the neighbors, without running water or electric outlets making it impossible to use.
For the project to continue with even the slightest resemblance to how we envisioned it we had to refuse their offers, move out and find new lving and working space. Not easy to do on such short notice in a country with a densely populated cities and low vacancy. Forunately, Judith was able to tap into her networks and resources at the University of Utrecht. She made arrangements with a short stay housing organization for a studio apartment in the city center and with the help of a colleague (thanks, Jeroen) found two empty classrooms at the Unviersity of Utrecht for work and storage space.
Views from University of Utrecht Studio
Setting-up New Workspace at the University of Utrecht
and at “home”…