New SAW collective an incubator for valley arts scene
Post Independent Contributor
CARBONDALE — On a recent Friday evening, Chris Erickson stood in an open garage bay at the Studio for Arts and Works in Carbondale, sipping a beer.
On the wall behind him, Erickson had mounted a pair of orange and green headphones that were nearly six feet tall. On another wall there was a sculpture of a pink ghost from the video game “Pac Man” with wings covered in stars and stripes. A robot was tucked on a shelf in a nearby corner, and the opposite wall was completely covered with multi-colored cassette tapes.
Spectators filtered through sipping drinks of their own, admiring Erickson’s art before wandering into the other studio spaces in the cavernous SAW warehouse at 525 Buggy Circle.
Erickson, a multimedia artist who often creates custom installations for parties and other events, was describing his strangest project to date: a gurney done in the style of ancient Egypt he’d produced for a lavish party in Aspen.
“There’s this thing, I think it’s big in Japan, where you cover a naked woman in food and then eat it,” he said. “That’s what this gurney was used for — to carry her.”
Erickson paused. “I also do a lot of Bar Mitzvahs,” he said.
Erickson is just one of 21 local artists who have moved into the new SAW facility since local potter Alleghany Meadows opened it in February.
Aside from Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, SAW may be the largest concentration of artistic energy in the Roaring Fork Valley. At its prior location on Euclid Avenue, the facility housed between six and 12 artists, making the new facility roughly twice as large.
Meadows closed the old SAW last year and sold the Euclid Ave. property to Valley View Hospital, whose owners plan to construct a medical clinic there.
He wasn’t fixed on finding a new collective studio space, he said, but once he saw the Buggy Circle building for sale, he couldn’t resist.
“It wasn’t necessarily my dream to go on, but I knew there was a shortage of studios, and that people needed the space,” he said.
Meadows, who is also the co-owner of the Harvey/Meadows gallery in Aspen and has a fleet of Airstream trailers that serve as mobile art galleries, spent three months renovating the building, which formerly housed a construction company.
He added insulation, divided the floor area into studio spaces, and wrapped the exterior in corrugated, galvanized steel.
Then he began recruiting artists, and today the space is home to a mix of painters, multimedia artists, potters, jewelers, screen printers and other creative types, including an interior design firm that occupies an upstairs office.
“It’s really an amazing group of people — we feed off of each other’s energy,” said Erickson. “I’ve never been involved in a space like this, and it’s a good way to separate home from work.”
Every artist pays rent for their space, and spaces range in size from about 100 to 1,000 square feet. Rent for the smallest space is around $200 per month.
Meadows maintains a waiting list for when new spaces become available.
Out of respect for the vagaries of the creative process, there are no fixed hours.
“Everyone gets a key, and can work here whenever they want,” said Meadows.
“Some people treat it like their 9-5 job, and there’s definitely a big energy in here at night.”
SAW holds art openings about once a month in the summer, and Meadows said he plans to do two or three in the winter as well, for a total of around six per year.
In September, the studio will also partner with the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities to present a three-week show at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.
In founding SAW, Meadows said he aimed to re-create the feel of his graduate school experience, when he and other artists shared a studio and collaborated freely.
“This space is an attempt to try to continue that type of creative energy,” he said.
On that Friday evening, across the warehouse from Erickson’s open studio at SAW, artist Claiborne Kuzmich was showing off his own expansive space. Kuzmich does everything from airbrushing to painting and multimedia work, but just then he was telling a group of visitors about a finger painting he’d recently completed.
“Sometimes it feels like an adult preschool in here,” he said. “It really is like an adult playground.”
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