When Marie Hosch lived in North Carolina, she made art in her home. After moving to Maine, she found a real studio.
Hosch, who makes watercolor paintings and ink drawings, is among the latest artists to join the art collective known as Running With Scissors. The collective moved last summer into a former office building in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, a popular destination for creative enterprise.
It’s the third home for the decade-old collective. Its owner, Kate Anker, hopes it’s the last time the artists have to move.
“I don’t want them to be uprooted anymore,” said Anker, who joined the collective as a member artist in its early days and took over as owner a few years ago. Anker signed an eight-year lease in early 2013 with an option to buy the 16,000-square-foot building on Anderson Street. She spent most of last year converting the building into studios and workspace.
This week, Running With Scissors capped a $25,000 crowd-sourced fundraising campaign that will help it complete upgrades and enhancements in the building. Among them are properly vented spray booths, a table saw with a safety stop to prevent severed fingers, a silk-screen shop and a studio where artists can photograph their work.
Running With Scissors has more than 50 resident artists, who pay $150 to $850 a month for studio space. Another two dozen associate artists pay $150 a month.
The collective has a print shop, a wood shop, private and semi-private studios, classroom space, a small library, light tables and printers. It also is home to the Bayside Clay Center, which has kilns, work tables and wheels for a dozen potters.
The space is light and orderly, with private studios on the perimeter and community work spaces toward the middle. Artists display their work on studio walls and in community spaces, bringing splashes of color.
Hosch and her husband, Tim, were applying wall paint to her studio last week. “I like being here because it exposes me to other artists, and I like the collaboration of ideas,” she said. “Being here will help me get my work out into the community.”
Having dedicated studio space also will enable her to think differently about the role that her art plays in her life. Instead of making art on the side, she will be more apt to treat it seriously as her career.
COLLECTIVE FILLS A BIG NEED
Running With Scissors fills an important role in Portland’s creative community, said Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Creative Portland, because it guarantees that artists have a home on the peninsula.
“Artists used to be in the Old Port and were driven out by higher rents. Now the Arts District is seeing studio space transitioned into condos and other uses,” Hutchins said. “The Portland community has been trying to figure this out for decades. It’s the age-old question of, how do you keep gentrification from having a negative impact on the people who have been the front-runners in making a neighborhood a desirable place to be?”
A Creative Portland survey of 300 artists last summer showed that only one in five artists was satisfied with their studio situation, and four in 10 were displeased with the size of their workspace. Nearly half of the artists surveyed worked out of their homes. The single biggest hindrance to finding suitable work space in the city was cost. No. 2 on the list was parking.
Truly affordable rents generally fall between $150 and $250 a month, Hutchins said. At any given time, the Portland peninsula has about 400 artist studios, 90 percent of which are full, she said.
“There’s a lot of need and a lot of demand, which is why Running With Scissors is so important,” she said. “What we discovered with our survey is that if there was more artist workspace on the peninsula that was affordable, there are plenty of artists interested in taking it.”
There are other art collectives in town for printmakers, fabric artists, emerging artists and others. None is as large as Running With Scissors and none offers the array of services, Hutchins said.
ALL STUDIO SPACES ALREADY LEASED
Running With Scissors started small a decade ago, with a handful of member artists. As more people joined, it outgrew its homes, first on Portland Street and later on Cove Street.
The current space was home to Catholic Charities Maine, which moved from Anderson Street two years ago.
When the property opened up, Anker wasn’t interested at first. It looked too much like an office building. But as her search for suitable property on the peninsula came up empty, Anker saw the benefits of Bayside.
It’s right off Interstate 295, has plenty of parking and is close to downtown. The neighborhood is home to new, creative businesses that are united not only by location, but by a willingness to take risks, including Urban Farm Fermentory, Tandem Coffee Roasters and Rising Tide Brewing Co. There are galleries, furniture makers and performance spaces.
The businesses support each other and cheer for each other’s success, Anker said.
The size of the building allowed the collective to more than double its membership, from fewer than two dozen artists to 55 resident artists and an additional 20 or so associate artists.
Anker invested more than $100,000 to convert the building. Artists began moving in late last summer, and by winter’s end all of the studio spaces were leased.
INSPIRED BY SPIRIT OF FOUNDERS
Among those who joined was Joni Fox-Campbell, who paints with wax.
“I like having a community around me that is doing the same thing,” she said. “I’m much more open to trying new things. I can see what other people are doing and get ideas from them.”
With the move completed and the studios filled, now it’s a matter of getting all the details right, which is what the Kickstarter campaign aims to do, Anker said.
Running With Scissors is not the only creative collective in Portland that’s raising funds for a building project. Business entrepreneur Jake Ryan is trying to raise $25,000 through an IndieGoGo campaign for his Open Bench Project proposed for Thompson’s Point.
Open Bench would provide a large-scale, industrial-arts work environment with a cabinet shop, a machine shop, an electronics lab and possibly a robotics lab for kids.
He hopes to attract “weekend warriors” and “makers” of all types: amateurs, professionals, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, youths, artists, scientists and engineers. He envisions a community workspace of 7,200 square feet, as well as small private studios.
Thompson’s Point appeals to Ryan because it offers room to grow. He’ll start relatively small, but has a chance to add 10,000 square feet, he said.
He plans to charge $29 a month, which is about the cost of a monthly gym membership, and hopes to open this summer.
In many ways, Anker was the perfect person to help Running With Scissors make the transition from a small collective to the city’s largest. She studied printmaking in college and worked in the bookbinding and book restoration business in the State Theatre building on Congress Street.
She joined Running With Scissors in its early days to access its press.
When the owners decided to concentrate on making art instead of running a business, Anker bought it. She had experience managing an apartment building, and saw Running With Scissors as a related property-management enterprise.
She is running the business in the spirit of its founders, who named it based on their daring idea that sounded like something their mothers would have warned them not to do: start a for-profit art studio business.
For Anker, the name also signifies the daring places artists go with their creative paths and work, through difficult questions of humanity, color and space, against reason and into personal reflection.
“Pushing mediums, ideas and beliefs is daring and risky; so is, I guess, running with scissors,” she said.
Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: