So how did you acquire these studio spaces?
During seminary I had to do an apprenticeship for its program, so I moved out to the Navajo reservation for about half a year and lived out there with some missionaries...and there was nothing out there. I lived out in this cabin on the church’s property. But while I was there, I was emailing one of the other pastors here. I had been doing work for the church… helping out with their stage design, helping out with their preteen ministry… and we were just exchanging emails. And I just said, wouldn’t it be interesting if the church tried to do some sort of art ministry? What would it look like? And she was like, well, we have these houses. East Side has bought these houses all around here. They’ve been around for like 65 years, so during that time they purchased these homes for different purposes. This (East Side Studios) used to be a group home for handicapped adults. But really they just said, let's see what this looks like. I had some friends in Anderson… and we decided to buy all the old AU glass equipment. All the timing worked out perfectly… This was all during 2014 or 2015, the turn of the year there.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Because the art students at Anderson were like, oh man, they’re cutting out fine arts — this is horrible! But it’s cool to hear your side of the story and know that it was perfect timing.
Yeah, it worked out. What’s funny is, you know the wedging table in the garage? That’s where I learned to wedge clay. And this wheel, this big treadle wheel, is where I learned to throw pottery. But it was all at AU, so it’s really cool that it’s here now. So we bought it and I had no idea what I was going to do with it — I just knew that this program needed it. I didn’t want it to be chopped up and bartered off. That equipment... it means something to me. So then we started inviting artists to do a three month residency. They could just come and live in the space… I learned a really hard lesson because all of a sudden, I just became the director of this thing and the first resident was one of my peers — we graduated together. I tell people that I was the first resident because my practice has grown enormously since doing this. During this whole time, our goal was to partner with local organizations that already existed. So during all that time, we’re teaching classes for the Anderson Center for the Arts, now Anderson Museum of Art. That was always kind of my vision, you know, let’s unite this Anderson arts culture.
So I tried a lot of things that didn’t really work, and that was because I didn’t have an idea of what this thing would really look like — we’re just now kind of figuring out what’s a need. So around the beginning of 2016, we started occupying this house. We had five wheels donated to us from a high school in Indianapolis, so I was like, why aren’t we teaching? Right when they donated the wheels, we got this space. At that point we were doing 90-day residencies and we required them all to teach classes at the Art Center as well. So Anderson itself was benefitting because we had these trained artists coming in, and they were entering shows, and teaching as well. So it was kind of a nice collab that was going on.
I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen here. The roof was leaky, I wasn’t even sure if we were going to stay in this house. And then it hit me that these are just bedrooms — they could be studio spaces. So since last May or June, we’ve pulled up all the carpet and we’ve got these studio spaces ready. So now the vision for this space is year long artists occupying the bedrooms and then we’re going to teach ceramics. We rent studio time out and then we also are going to do glass casting, so it requires plaster molds and things like that.
And the funny thing is, I was kind of just doing all this because it was my passion. I wanted to have a space where I could make artwork and then I was like, well, I should open this up to other people because they could probably use this space too. So now it’s getting to the point where it’s like, well... now I don’t have my own studio space. I’m not just a director, I’m an artist myself — I want to show work and I want to make work. I also want to teach and I also want to bring artists together in a community. The whole idea behind this is that I’m on staff at the church, but this whole space back here, we’re nonprofit. So everything we do, all the sales that we do, is able to fund this place. So we’re actually not taking any money from the church, which is my passion. Because some churches spend all this money and programming, and I was like... there has to be a way to make all of this sustainable. And that’s what the goal is here. Like all the programming we do, it’s not free, it costs money to take a class, but people like paying it because they can come back and see the progress from their own money, so it’s like they’re investing in this. And we can afford to do more and expand, so it’s a self-sustaining program.
So you actually teach classes here?
Oh yeah. It’s just a partnership. They don’t have pottery wheels. They don’t have a lot of 3D space or 3D teachers. So you can sign up there, but you’re going to come here. Same with Pendleton — you can sign up there and you’re just going to come here.
Did you know immediately what you wanted to shape your work to be? You mentioned earlier you wanted people to slow down when looking at your art. Where did that come from?
That comes from probably just life experiences and my love for the natural world, and that comes from a lot of my experience on the reservation — life there is super slow. They’d say, hey we’re going to pick you up to do this thing at 10am and they wouldn't get there till, like, noon. And for them it’s no big deal, and for me it’s like… c’mon! Growing up, someone else always gives you this structure for life. Even in school, it’s like, O.K., you have this bigger thing giving you structure, and when that’s all stripped away, you’re the person that has to wake up to do stuff for yourself during the day and not just rely on a job to keep you sane or a boss to keep you sane. You kind of have to make your own structure, and learn space and speed, I guess. A lot of artists, they see needs in their societies and they make artwork to try to show people where they should be — what life is really supposed to be like.
So in relation to Anderson, what needs do you see within this city?
I think one of the biggest problems is people promising a lot, but then it doesn’t happen — and Anderson has just become super cynical because of that. So my thing is, okay, let’s just do good work. And let’s do what we say we’re going to do. Let’s actually do art in the city, let’s actually teach classes, let’s actually have artists here — let’s do that! So yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest problems in Anderson is being continually let down. And the city itself is kind of reinventing, it’s becoming a new thing, a new beast, which I think is great. I don’t think it’ll ever become a suburb of Indy because it’s too… it has its own personality. You could get a lot of Indy people coming here, but Anderson will still be Anderson. There’s no way it’s going to transform into exit 210. And I think that’s awesome.
What do you hope to see in this community? Either through their art or just in general?
Seeing people love where they live. When I lived in Seattle, you go out into the park and there was a quartet of stringed instruments, people like professionally trained, just putting on a concert for free because they just love where they live. They’re like, hey let's just go to the park and play, and this huge crowd starts gathering. These people genuinely love what they do and they love where they live. I think that would be great for Anderson — if people would love where they live and start taking care of it, respecting it, doing good work, fulfilling promises that they make. Anderson could compete with any creative city in Indiana if it did that. It would only complement other cities — you don’t want to just make something that already exists. You want to kind of create something new and then work with the existing thing.