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Creating the Dream Studio

Meadows art alums convert 1898 building into artists' refuge

The exterior of the "dream studio" in Corsicana.

Kyle Hobratschk, B.F.A. Studio Art ’11, was teaching a printmaking class at the Oil and Cotton building in Dallas one night when he asked his students to describe their dream studio. Out of all the answers he received, none had as much impact as an email sent to him the next day.

“One of the students in my class was painter Nancy Rebal,” says Hobratschk. “She sent me photos of a three-story brick building built in downtown Corsicana in 1898. It piqued my interest, so, just for kicks, I drove down to take a look.”

It turned out the building was for sale, and the $14-per-square-foot price got his attention.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I ended up bringing six different friends to see it within two weeks. Although it needed some work and some really deep cleaning, I saw it as a dream studio,” he says. “I ended up buying the building, and with the help of my Meadows friends, we’re turning it into an artists’ refuge.”

Fellow Meadows alums Anna Membrino, M.F.A. Art/Painting ’12; Travis LaMothe, M.F.A. Art/Sculpture ’13; and Kiernan Lofland, incoming graduate sculpture student ’14, are all contributing their time, talents and tools as they build sweat equity in the new venture. Olivia Smith, B.F.A. Art ’11, currently in New York doing intern work with Creative Time, often calls with tips on arts management, ideas and grant writing.

“It’ll be a place where artists can come for uninterrupted work,” says LaMothe. “Artists can come and stay for three or four days, or even a month or more, just to produce art. It can be used like a mini-residency. It’ll have a kitchen, bathroom, showers, a place to sleep.

The building boasts 4,000 square feet, 14-foot ceilings and wood floors throughout.

“The best thing is, once you get there, it’s all about productivity.”

Imagine 14-foot ceilings on each of the building’s three 4,000-square-foot floors. Wood floors throughout, plenty of windows and natural light, vintage fans on the ceilings. Now picture a wood shop on the first floor, a printmaking studio on the second and exhibitions and gatherings on the spacious third floor.

“It lets the artist enter a space that's neither domestic nor gallery-oriented,” says LaMothe. “It isn't necessarily someone's home, a gallery with rotating shows, or just a studio. But the fact that it's all of these things at once takes some pressure off the idea of where art work and art making belong. For now, either is just in the next room.”

Even though the building has yet to be officially named (the group is favoring “Kunsthaus Corsicana”), interest in the retreat is already growing. Two artists, a painter and a writer who are looking for a quiet place away from the distractions of Dallas to create their work, have already arranged to lease space on the third floor this fall.

The building is expected to be ready by September or October of 2012. Once it is under way, the artists there will hold occasional exhibitions and presentations for the public. But most of the time, it will be a quiet place of refuge for artists who want to focus on their work, away from the big city, in a building just for them.

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