A Prestigious Address

From The Biscuit, a publication of Charlotte Is Creative, by Page Leggett (used with permission)


Image of McColl Center. Courtesy of Charlotte Is Creative.

The work of being an artist is mostly solitary. But there are tangible benefits to having other artists nearby. A community is vital to the creative process.

The McColl Center for Art + Innovation has provided that sense of community since opening in 1999. Residencies allow select artists to become a colony for three-month stints. Each artist gets his or her own studio, but they share space, resources and ideas.

Now, more artists – specifically local ones – are going to have a similar opportunity.

“More than a year ago, we started thinking of ways we could be more open to local artists, working artists, up-and-coming artists,” said Armando Bellmas, the McColl Center’s VP of marketing and operations.

“We started to think about all the things we could offer – communal studios, equipment, professional development. We had a lot of studio space that would often go unused, so we decided to divide up those spaces and make them available as artists’ studios that could be rented.” Rented at a very low rate, to boot.

The available spaces in the McColl Center’s Studio Rental Program are on the center’s third floor. Studios range from about 90 to 135 square feet.

Artists can apply for a one-year lease, with the option to renew for an additional year.

A panel of people affiliated with the McColl Center and from the creative community will choose the artist/renters to be part of the first cohort. They’ll be looking for a mix of genres, ages, backgrounds.

Renters have 24-hour access to their studios and access to the labs between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day. Rent, subsidized by the McColl Center, ranges from $275 to $400 a month.

Space is available for nine artists. There are eight studios, plus a space for a partnership with CreativeMornings. Applications, available on the McColl Center’s website, are due April 30.

One of the nine studios is reserved for the HUG Micro-Grant program. As part of the partnership between the McColl Center and Charlotte Is Creative, previous HUG recipients working in Charlotte are eligible to apply for a four-month granted residency in one of the studios described above. The McColl Center and Charlotte Is Creative will cover all monthly rental fees for the four-month tenure.

Scarcity of Affordable Space for Creatives

“Space is at a premium now,” said Jonell Logan, the McColl Center’s creative director. “I know a lot of artists who lost their studio spaces [in the changing real estate market]. This is an opportunity to allow artists to work together and, I think, have a sense of stability.”

“This building is dedicated to art and creativity and collaboration,” she continued. “We offer all these resources that are not available to artists using rented spaces. There’s a printmaking studio, a media lab with a large-format printer, a sculpture studio, an opportunity to work with ceramics. It’s not just the space; it’s the idea of community.”

“And a working woodshop,” Bellmas added. “We just added a 3-D lab with a 3-D printer, and a laser cutter.”

The McColl Center’s equipment is top-notch (read: pricey), and some of it is potentially dangerous. So, everyone who rents space will get trained on how to use it.

For full-time (and aspiring full-time) artists

You don’t need to be a full-time artist to apply. But you should be working toward that goal. That’s not meant as a barrier to admission. It’s because McColl officials want to ensure that the space is actually used.

“We want artists to work at least 15 to 20 hours a week in their studio,” Bellmas said. “We really want it to be a working space. If you’re absent, you can’t be a part of the community.”

The building is accessible to artists 24 hours a day, so Bellmas knows “there will be people flowing in and out of the building.”

“When we talk about community, it’s not nine to five,” he said. “It’s really about a group of people working together to define this for themselves. We want these artists to learn from each other and be thinking about future opportunities to collaborate. How you fulfill your 15 to 20 hours a week is up to you.”

Logan added, “We want to encourage curiosity, experimentation, the willingness to open themselves up and advance their practice.”

Making art may be a solitary endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

Ready to see the McColl Center for yourself? The doors are open!

“We reopened to the public about two weeks ago for the first time since last March,” Armando Bellmas said.

“Everybody is welcome back. We have a great exhibition. We have some artists in residence. We have art on the walls. We did a renovation last fall, and a lot of the doors into some of these communal studios are now glass. You can look into the studios and see what’s going on.”

Open hours are Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.