How does one start an artist collective in Brooklyn? Step one: put together a business plan and acquire an affordable commercial space. Step two: renovate and design it to your needs. Step three: develop a word-of mouth campaign and hold a killer opening party attracting hundreds of people.
“We want to have deep roots in Bushwick,” said Jay Epstein, marketing director and co-founder of Papa B Studios. “That is our focus for the next few years. I live in the neighborhood off the Marcy stop. It feels right out here [with] all the artists out here.”
Epstein and his partner, Anthony Denaro, founded Papa B Studios (907 Broadway Avenue) last month as a place where artists and musicians can utilize private studio space and creative services for their projects. Epstein had been formulating his plan for the past three years, initially generating the idea while he was studying music at the New School in downtown Manhattan.
“All my friends were artists, from graphic design to toy design,” Epstein said. “When I was in school, I found that I had a lot of difficulty just finding rehearsal spaces.”
The organization is membership-based and members can pay a flat fee at three different levels ($350 for private rentals, $150 for locker space and facility access, and $45 a month for basic membership) to utilize private or communal workshop space. Papa B Studios also provides gallery services and other opportunities for artists to show their work to the community.
Epstein hopes that the gallery shows and communal atmosphere of the studio will encourage creative professionals in the neighborhood to develop into a close-knit community.
“One hundred fifty dollars is not a lot of money for people to have a place to come and meet other freelancers and take your career to the next level,” Epstein said. “We’re providing affordable space for the independent artist.”
The studio consists of a large gallery space with two adjoining private studio workshops on the first floor, a large communal studio space in the basement with scores of wooden lockers for storage, and a media lab. Parts of the studios are still in the process of being renovated, as Epstein and Denaro have been ordering new equipment and computers for the media lab, while determining the best uses for a large room in the back of the basement. Denaro, a recent architectural student from Pratt University, described designing and renovating the space as his own personal laboratory and playground.
“Having to work within the confines of an old storefront was the hard part,” Denaro said. “The low budget and old storefront provided a lot of challenges to overcome. Making something look amazing for cheap is not easy when you start with an old beat up loft space. You can never predict what will come out of a laboratory.”
Several paintings from the Methods NYC Art Team adorn the walls, which Papa B Studios honored during its launch party in early May. Over 300 people danced to music spun by DJ JayCeeOh and Demize, who Epstein worked with as a nightclub marketer in the past.
Papa B Studios also wants to add an educational focus in the coming months, including figure modeling workshops, music classes, and seminars ranging from drawing to arts management. If the gallery-studio model is successful, Epstein hopes to replicate the idea to other cities around the country over the next three to five years.
“This is a first step for us,” Epstein said. “We’re looking to expand not only in New York but t develop affordable artists spaces in any large city with an artistic presence.”
Papa B Studios is holding another opening party sometime in late June. For more information, visit www.papabs