In 2009, I moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Greenwich Village and faced the impossible task of finding an affordable art studio in one of New York’s most expensive neighborhoods 🏘️ 💰 . The New York Times had plenty of fabulous listings with price tags to match. I needed to find something under the table 🌃 . I hit Craigslist and that is how I found… The Russians 🇷🇺 .
Art Space NYC 🎨 👨🎨 👩🎨 🖌️ was a studio co-op run by a talented group of artists that all happened to be from Russia 🇷🇺 . It was located on a quirky block of 14th Street btw 6th and 7th Avenues next to the Salvation Army 🇨🇭 HDQ and across from the YMCA 💪 👷 👮 🏗️ (the one the Village People sing about). 14th Street has a gift for maintaining it’s edge and odor 👃 no matter how bourgeois the surrounding areas become. You can always count on 14th Street to remind you what the “P” in public stands for 🚽. Its gritty charm kept the rents somewhat affordable on the block 🏠 .
I knew I was going to rent the space the minute I met Michael (the head artist and COO). He was the spitting image of Salvador Dali in his prime 〰️. He had the hair, the mustache and the clothes👔. Michael arrived riding a vintage bicycle 🚲 that was almost just too much…in a good way. We entered the 1920s building and took the self-operated elevator to the 5th floor 🏰 . The studio had a very large open shared space with three private studios around the edges. There were floor to ceiling windows with a view of Greenwich Village rooftops 🌆 and the Empire State Building rising behind them 🌞 . “This is where I want to work.” I said. I wrote a check on the spot. ✍️
The building was full of creative entrepreneurs of all flavors including : @karmakidsyoga , @bakedbymelissa , a men’s spa 😉, a film production company, my favorite marketing agency @guillaumeguevara, an avant garde theater company and don’t forget me.. aka the world famous Manhattan Magnolia Paintress of E. 9th Street…and the Russians 🇷🇺 @artspacenyc .
Michael and his team were all incredibly gifted 🎁 . They were renowned for their decorative wall coverings: wallpapers 🍥, mirrors 🪞, murals and sculptural relief ⚜️. Everything was bespoke with the air of “old world expensive”. Their work is in just about every high-end hotel and retail space you can think of all around in the world 🌎 including the Waldorf Astoria and the Saint Regis in New York. The Russians also worked with famous interior designers, private citizens with incredible taste and the occasional mafioso.
I learned so many things about silk-screening, creating patterns, mirrors and using metallics while working there 👩🏻🎨. I had never even thought of incorporating such things into my work before 🤔 . While I think Michael was a fan of me personally, I can’t say that he was a huge fan of my work. Color 🌈 was not his thing and he was always trying to convert me to neutrals. He just couldn’t wait for me to try something called amber tint varnish on my paintings which basically turns everything yellow 💛 to give it the patina of a bygone era. 🙃 I loved him anyway. 💟
What did I teach The Russians ? Well… I was the C.T.O. of the co-op aka the Chief Translating Office 👮 . I edited their business correspondence and reviewed their contracts with clients when asked. I explained nuances of the English language on a daily basis 🇬🇧 .
I left Art Space with a heavy heart 💔 when I started splitting my time between Hudson, Manhattan and motherhood 👩 👧 . I didn’t leave empty handed ✋ . I took with me some incredible friendships, a working partnership with Latvian superstar artist @justinite , a portfolio full of evolved styles and incredible memories.