Leaving Home – Artist Studio Space in the Tri Cities

Port Moody, the City of the Arts, is home to many creators and their studios. A lucky few have their own studios but often artists work from home, repurposing a spare bedroom or basement area into working space. But what happens when there simply isn’t enough room to wield the brush, or if equipment needs don’t fit in with domesticity? Lack of suitable space compromises creativity, severely restricting the kinds of media that can be used or even the techniques possible.

Not everyone has access to a studio and this is where rentals comes in. The City of Port Moody rents out artist space at Esplanade Studios near Rocky Point Park. Artists can lease one of 11 studios, ranging from 125 to 990 square feet (most are below 164 square feet in size). Average rents range from $200 to $800 per month all inclusive, depending on studio size and individual amenities (studios share a common kitchen, bathroom, lounge and display space on the walls). Leases run month by month with an annual commitment.

Right now, there are 20 artists on the waiting list.

A Google search turned up nothing other than a recent advertisement from the Burrard Inlet Artists Association for artist space near Rocky Point. Asking fellow artists in the area didn’t generate any more leads either.

Open Clay Studio at Port Moody Arts Centre

Open Clay Studio at Port Moody Arts Centre

So what do artists round here do? Well, one solution is to relocate temporarily. With the lack of rentals, many artists turn to drop-in studio space. These are usually offered in a local arts centre or community space and, for a modest fee, provide equipment and supplies that are difficult to deal with at home. For example, both Port Moody Arts Centre and Coquitlam’s Place des Arts provide kilns and glazing facilities for their clay open studios.

There is also another benefit to getting out of the house. Otto Kamensek, current ceramic-artist-in-residence at Port Moody Arts Centre says that the drop-in clay program was really important for him to learn and develop his unique style, as well as network with other keen potters. The open studio where I spoke with him was filled with the hum of easy conversation as artists worked individually around the table on their personal projects. “I’m not looking forward to the end of my residency,” Kamensek explains, looking around the creative space in the arts centre basement.

Camaraderie is important for artists who usually work in isolation. The drop-in program run by Port Coquitlam’s Leigh Square Community Arts Village (Tuesdays, from 10am) simply provides tables, chairs and a meeting space in which artists can work and chat, sharing tips, opinions and techniques with each other. Another club, Suite E Life Drawing, offers a weekly drop-in for members and arranges professional models for artists to work with.

Spectra Photographic Studio

Spectra Photographic Studio

Sometimes artists prefer a solo work space; Spectra Studios in Port Coquitlam offers a novel 24/7 subscription rental package to local photographers. Members can book time slots and meet with clients in a fully-equipped, spacious setting rather than having to deal with limited space at home. According to David Pedersson, one of the studio members, this is quite a new business model for photography. Beginners at the start of their careers can access a fully-equipped space without having to invest heavily in equipment. For busy professionals, the attraction is time saved setting up for a shoot. With automated backdrops including green screens, a dressing room with props, and connections for laptop-powered real time viewing, the studio is big enough for larger groups or even a couple of motorbikes!

The final option is to dispense with the studio altogether. Participants in the Artists in the Park program run by the City of Port Moody don’t need a studio. Each summer, the city invites artists to brighten its open spaces with creativity. From May to September, just make your work portable, take a brolly and work in public, en plein air.

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