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ISSUE
  Thursday
169
  March 25
2004
c o n t e n t s
 
 

Even Better than ‘The Real Thing’

Lab to be In the Company of Neil LaBute (With free punch and cookies!)
 

The Canadian Invasions
Quebecois Director Denys Arcand Discusses His New Film and Its Oscar Win, the Canadian Health-Care System and Jesus

Elaborate Filmmaking of the Thoughtful Kind
 
 
 
 

 coverStory
 
IT’S RED HOT IN POOR YORICK
The artist studios with the freshness!
 
 
by Stephanie Geerlings

 

hat’s rough around the edges and cleans up nice only twice a year? Poor Yorick Studios—a delicious venue and workspace for some of Salt Lake City’s most talented artists, ranging from fresh newcomers to seasoned veterans in the art world

Poor Yorick Studios exists over the tracks in a seldom-seen part of Salt Lake City.

Its labyrinth interior houses more than 30 ingenious, working artists. Some of the studios shelter two intense artists sharing space in order to keep the costs down.

   
  Trent Call waits in his studio filled with his sketches and inspirational suggestions.
   
  A wild-eyed David Laub explains his artwork, which consists of photography, collage, painting and 3-D work.
   
  The graffiti room frequently changes its appearance. Pieces not attached to the wall are for sale.
   
  Patrons of Poor Yorick pack the crowded halls at the semiannual opening last Friday.

It is a warehouse building in downtown’s industrial theme park. The eight-foot walls that divide the studio only reach halfway up the 16-foot ceiling. “It’s fun to hear other people’s conversations and sporadically answer them” as though they were in an abstract chat room, said Melinda Meier, a Poor Yorick artist.

“We are rough on the edges and we like it that way,” Brad Slaugh said, a claim which may as well serve as the motto for Poor Yorick.

Slaugh is the catalyst behind Poor Yorick’s creative atmosphere. “Brad has a great draw,” said David Laub, a Poor Yorick artist of three years. “Everybody here is incredibly talented.”

Slaugh received his MFA from Boston University. He taught art courses throughout the state for six years, at a variety of schools including the University of Utah, Weber State University and Salt Lake Community College. “It feels like I have taught just about everywhere,” he said.

Slaugh received a fellowship in 1995 that he intended to use wisely. He also had to find studio space—the only respectable option for an adept artist without a garage. He used the fellowship grant to start Marmalade Studios in 1996. It was open for five years before it dissolved due to zoning restrictions. It relocated as Poor Yorick. “I started looking for studio space and there just wasn’t any,” Slaugh said.

There are not many ideal spaces for making art—like ones with running water and ventilation. If you apply for studio space your name will be put on the ominous “mystery list,” and the wait can seem guarded by an incestuous nepotism.

Meier looked for about a year before she found and settled into Poor Yorick in August. She feels that it was Slaugh’s hard work that makes Poor Yorick what it is. “His vision…got us all here,” Meier said.

It took a tremendous amount of work to get the building up to code. “It was like The Odyssey,” Slaugh said. After his building had skylights and a few plywood walls, he started leasing space.

“As fast as I could build [the studios] I would fill them,” he said. The wait list for Art Space Studios was about 300 people deep when he first started his studio endeavor.
“It is just like an office,” Meier said. They are usually open during the day and people wander through.”

The casual professional space is probably nicer than most offices. Meier described the atmosphere as a young, vibrant energy. Variety among the different types of artists and styles adds to the eclectic arrangement.

There are not many requirements for this lax community. The two rules are: If asked to turn your music down, turn it down, and if someone’s music is bothering you, ask him or her to turn it down.

The artists police themselves for safety concerns and to create a comfortable working space.

Even though there is a low turnover rate, Poor Yorick tries to accommodate as many applicants as it can. “I have had to turn some people away because we didn’t have the facilities,” Slaugh said. The artists share sound space and airspace, so heavy machining and a lot of chemical use is not allowed, although there is a spray booth for aerosols and other toxins. “If there was a fantastic artist who was obnoxious, they probably wouldn’t find a place here,” Slaugh said. It is a small, respectable community and good manners are a must.

Tessa Lindsay, a multi-talented fresco, watercolor, 3-D and restoration artist has had a studio in Poor Yorick since it opened. “The artists here are private,” she said. “Personally, I don’t let anyone into my studio when I am working on a series.”

The working title of Lindsay’s latest series is the “Mormon Enigma Series.” Poor Yorick’s running joke is, “Tessa is working on her secret painting again.”

“Artists tend to be myopic. They can have tunnel vision and only focus on their aesthetic,” Lindsay observed. “Diversity is key,” she said.

“There are such a variety of other artists,” said Ben Webster of Athenaeum Press.

The artists of Poor Yorick are quite attached to the diverse environment.

“Critique isn’t given unless it’s asked for,” Meier said. The artists are respectful of other artists’ space. Meier noted it was nice to have people around she can ask about a stumbling block in an artwork. Answers to questions about colors, lines, chemicals and techniques can be obtained by shouting over a wall.

“Artists can critique things too early,” Slaugh says. He explained it was like incubating an egg and if you crack the egg open prematurely, you might not recognize the chick inside and peck it to death.

Poor Yorick recently started the Pragmatic Academy. “Art school for adults,” Slaugh said. The classes range from $80 to $135. Patty Kimball and occasionally Doug Braithwaite, both artists and art teachers, and Slaugh teach classes ranging from color theory to figure painting. There are classes for different levels of students from beginning drawing to extended model pose figure drawing. Extended pose gives the artists multiple days to work on the same figure piece. Usually, the model will sit in a pose for two to four hours and then the class moves on, but extended pose presents the opportunity to improve the quality of the artwork.

Derek Martinez, tattoo artist and Poor Yorick artist, is gleaning Poor Yorick’s eclectic art community not through the classes but through the encounters with his resident peers. He has painted and drawn for most of his life, but is learning new oil and acrylic paint techniques from the artists. He shares a studio with printmaker Julian Hensarling.

“It is our way of expressing ourselves,” Martinez said. His artwork is not for profit—that’s what tattooing is for—but he will trade art with artists he respects. “There is a lot more value in it that way because then it is special for a reason,” he said.

“I like having a space where I can keep my art stuff from running into my other stuff,” Martinez said.

 
  Open Studio

It is workspace first, but the artists open their doors to the public two nights each year.
The hallways, however, are always loaded with art. The art usually comes from the curious creators inside the walls, but they also extend their hand to “honorary members.”

Poor Yorick artists cleaned away the workspace disarray for the equinox and the fifth semiannual celebration on March 19, but the hallways still smelled deeply of mineral spirits and paint.

The two special nights they open are near the equinox and usually fall on gallery stroll Friday nights.

Poor Yorick was packed for the spring open studio exhibition. Art enthusiasts, collectors and friends cannot escape the allure of the studios.

Because it is so rare an event and the work inside is never a disappointment, the chance to see always new, inspiring work is a hard buzz in the Salt Lake City network. This is an event people don’t miss.

Cars were parked around a three-block radius. The postcard sent out suggests, “Carpool if you can swing it at all.” The attendees who brought their postcards could finish the print on old presses from Athenaeum Press, housed in the front of Poor Yorick.

Poor Yorick is the best of the gallery stroll experience. It is so many galleries in one and because the work is always new, it’s never redundant.

“It’s great it’s only open twice a year. Then the work is always fresh,” said Trent Call, a Poor Yorick artist.

“We would love to do more shows, but the truth is, we just can’t,” said Slaugh. He feels if artists make work too quickly then the quality can suffer.

The guts of art creation still linger. Figure studies line the walls next to finished works. Poor Yorick is usually all work, no display. The ghost smelling of mineral oil, spray paint and ink cruises through the halls.

“I know why they only open it twice a year—it was a pain in the ass to clean this place up,” Watson said.

The artists are as eclectic as the food they serve. Some offer vegan options, others offer barbecue chicken. In some of the studios the gallery stroll staple, Livingston wine, has been replaced by the award-winning Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Poor Yorick is 530 W. 700 South. Classes are open to the public. For more information, call Brad Slaugh at 759-8681.
stephanie@red-mag.com

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