Habitat for Artists: A place to work

British sculptor Simon Draper founded the Habitat for Artists movement just as the economy was collapsing in 2007/2008. Starting this week, on May 2 to be precise, its small studio built by a team of local creators returns to the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum for its third season of exciting and diverse community engagement projects set to continue through July 29.

The 6×6 foot studio is again installed on WAAM’s front property, just off the Woodstock Village Green. Participating artists, who will display works, hold workshops, make portraits, do yoga, and create installations on and around the studio, will include Laura Bustamante, ES DeSanna, Elena Eshleman, Juan Giraldo, Anna Kell, Claire Lamb, Roger Lazoff, Barbara Loisch, Norm Magnusson, Dominique Robin, Miriam Romais, Shane Smith and Christine Stoddard.

“When I lived in New York, working out of makeshift studios in various spaces, my most creative space was located in a basement next door to the Brooklyn Casket Company,” said Draper. “As a sideline, I was making crates for art shipping. So I’d put these things out on the sidewalk, where they’d be picked up later in the day, and then next door you’d see these wooden pine boxes that were being built, and people would come along and ask if my crates were the bargain-basement versions (some of them were quite large).” Draper’s remarks came at the initiation of the HFA movement, which later saw growth around the nation to many arts organizations and museums, included the heralded Corcoran just off The Mall in Washington, D.C. “Part of being an artist is being able to see the jewel in the rough, but at the same time you’re doing that, you’re changing the market and putting a quantifiable value, making a commodity out of something that was just a rundown place. You see this redefinition of space…We’re taking an architectural form that has a myriad of uses, and we’ll start to inhabit these as work spaces, small enough to slide under the radar of permitting processes, and also realizing that perhaps you don’t need such a big space to actually create work.”

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The project has morphed, over the years, from what at one point seemed like it could become a competition of scruffy building that used found materials to a “collective project that uses the idea of the artist’s studio as a catalyst for mutual engagement between artists and communities,” focused on the 6 foot by 6 foot structural size. “The studios are made from predominantly recycled or reclaimed material and are reused for each new iteration of the project. During short-term residencies, artists work within certain guidelines set up by HFA, either to consider types of materials used or to connect to a certain site in a new context. These intimate work spaces not only ask artists working in them to explore their creative needs, but also act as a metaphor for our own domestic needs. How might we be more creative about our consumption of materials, our use of energy and land? Could we be doing more with less, yet still create a vibrant, relevant society and culture? They are asked to consider the questions: How Much? How Little? The Space to Create.”

Since its creation, HFA has partnered with more than 20 different organizations (including schools) and involved more than over 50 artists in locations that have included an art park, a scenic park, an environmental education park, a farm, and expos and festivals in New York City.

HFA at WAAM has hosted over thirty artist residencies over the past two seasons offering creative community projects as diverse as cartoon illustration, contemporary choreography, mosaics, chutney making, homemade lens photography, installations that wrap the studio and printmaking.

A full season of events — outlined on the WAAM website at woodstockart.org — will kick off with a “Paint the HFA” event from  noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 5 (raindate May 6).

There is one comment

  1. Jane

    This is the problem with wonderful and original ideas, Mr. Draper. After a very short time, they get skewered into something neat, clean, organized, and acceptable… if not elitist. The latter stage has been reached. And, I hope to the box that it was not Simon Draper who said, “ask if my crates were the bargain-basement versions (some of them were quite large).” implying that if one shops in a bargain basement, a body is large. I hope it is the author of this article, Mr. Smart, who is biased, and not Mr. Draper. (In any event, clearly, a lack of real life experience at major department store special sales). Whatever this new installation is, no vestige of the original intention remains, and I highly doubt it will be as much fun, either.

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