Three-dozen creatives in almost as many genres call Trackside Studios their artistic home. All of them have to work shifts in the gallery as part of their rental contract — and all of them have “a great view of the railroad tracks right outside our back windows” in the River Arts District, according to Julie Ann Bell, who, along with Lynn Stanley and Michael Allen Campbell, moved into the building. five years ago.
“When we were offered the opportunity to expand the space into additional rooms,” says Bell, “we formed our corporation” (LJM Art, Inc., the initials of their first names).
They literally “broke through walls” to expand the space. “Our landlord, Steve Keull, agreed with our idea for change, and, one by one, the walls of four rooms were opened to each other,” says Bell. Over the years, as other rooms in the building became available, they too were absorbed by Trackside.
The venue now encompasses approximately 3,400 square feet, all on one floor. It operates similar to a cooperative, except that Stanley, Bell, and Campbell hold the master lease and have overall financial responsibility. “There is not an end-of-year profit sharing as there would be in a co-op,” explains Stanley, “largely because we set up this business to allow ourselves a chance to create art and share a creative environment with others.” The trio invests potential profit back into Trackside Studios through advertising, sponsoring artists’ receptions, and by supporting young, emerging artists. As for Trackside’s resident members, their shift duties include greeting and assisting customers.
The three founders are still working artists, too. Stanley notes, “I’ve always had a passion for watercolor, and, some years ago, a course in Chinese led me to focus on Asian ink and watercolor painting, which combines poetry and visual images…” She creates the ads and articles for RADA (River Arts District Artists).
Campbell describes his art as expressions conveyed in a minimalist mode. “My work is monochromatic [most often white on white] and textural.” His role in the business is to keep the books and ensure the rent and the artists are paid on time.
Bell creates wire sculptures — including trees, figures, and some nonrepresentational forms. She schedules studio shifts and special events, and communicates with existing tenants and potential artists.
Trackside currently represents 30 artists, working in multiple genres of paint and ink, glass mosaic, 3D creations of copper and steel and wire, photography, and decorative and functional clay. Prices range from a .50 sticker to a $5,000 sculpture. Mixed-media artist Chalkley Matlack and jewelry designer Terri Robinson were the first makers to join Trackside, followed shortly thereafter by printmaker Dona Barnett.
“We are probably at the maximum [capacity] we can support without losing personal connections and some differentiation of space,” notes Bell. When space does become available, the three founders meet with potential members and view samples of their work. “We talk about art, the studios, price points, and a bit about one another,” says Bell. “We are looking for art that is different from that of our current artists.” Stanley interjects, “We are looking for artists who are engaging and friendly. We are proud of what we call the ‘Trackside Vibe,’ and seek artists who want to be part of an outgoing, creative culture.”
In fact, making room for the talented artists they already have has been the gallery’s greatest challenge, according to Stanley: “My solution would be to knock out more walls.”
Trackside Studios (tracksidestudios375.com) is located at 375 Depot St. Hours are 10 am-5pm March through December (11am-4pm January and February). For more information, call 828-545-2904 or see tracksidestudios375.com. The galleries host artists’ receptions from 2-5pm as part of the River Arts District Artists’ “Second Saturday” series (the reception on Saturday, March 14, will feature works by Trackside artist Marcos Martinez).