Theirs was a big dream, one that did not foresee the pandemic — but a persistent dream nonetheless. Katie Montes and Cody Reed, two talented tattoo artists, had been working together in the same studio for about four years. They spoke often about the tattoo industry, changes they wished to see happen. They talked about how they might be part of making those changes a reality.
As Reed describes it, theirs was an environment in which they went to work, made some money, and went home. Montes posed the question: “If we just come to work and do what we’re told, what makes us artists?” They began planning a different approach.
They started with their agreed-upon goal — a new space that would welcome all types of artists and craftspeople. Together they would create a sense of community among participants. It would be a place where everyone (visitors and artists alike) could have fun while ideally learning from one another.
When Montes discovered the 8,100-square-foot former factory space in downtown Hendersonville, it provided the tangible impetus needed to manifest this vision. Reed signed the lease having not seen the building, explaining that he “had trust in the mission and trust in Katie’s judgment.” COVID-19, however, quickly upended their plans.
“Our timing for breaking ground on construction happened right before the quarantine,” says Montes. “Instead of tearing up flooring and tattooing by night to support the construction as we’d planned, we were broke from signing the lease and unable to work to catch up.”
Though she wasn’t an experienced seamstress, she began working 12-hour days making cloth masks, with some assembly help from her dad. In addition, her husband, Ricardo, a nursing student before this project began, put his schooling on hold so he could help with the renovation efforts.
“To cut labor costs, we hung almost 300 sheets of 5/8-inch drywall ourselves,” says Montes, “including the 30-foot-high wall along the back side of the shop. “The tattoo booths, studio lofts, fire-exit hall, additional restrooms, and more were all additions made by us.”
Studio spaces take up approximately 900 of the total 8,000 square feet of the facility. The grand hall/gallery space is 2,000, the front gallery is another 2,000, tattoo booths are 1,000, and a loft for resident artists will be around 500 square feet. “We hope to use part of what’s left on the back portion of the gallery for a small clay studio in the future,” she adds.
Presently, Montes and Reed have their own tattoo studios in the building (they also work with oil paints when they’re not tattooing), and there’s one guest-artist spot that has rotating tattoo artists, a piercer, and one artist who both paints and sculpts. They just opened up the loft on the second floor for studio artists to rent spaces, and they’re looking for more artists to join them in this collective venture.
Mandy Hartman, Continuum’s gallery and studio coordinator, says the venue’s soft opening in June included an art market and local musicians (a larger, formal opening event happened on Aug. 7). She adds that she’s planning art classes and intensive workshops in many mediums, taught by artists from all over the world.
“We will typically pair our workshop offerings with our curated exhibitions to expand on the big ideas within the gallery,” explains Hartman. Studio artists renting space at Continuum can also teach classes in their respective crafts.
Two notable workshops are with Kerry Dunn (November 5-7), a portrait painter from Pennsylvania, and with Oliver Sin (April 9-10 of next year), a Hungarian artist who has drawn TIME magazine covers. “We’re working with ceramic artists to offer more workshops throughout the winter season,” adds Hartman.
“We also showcase rotating curated exhibitions in our gallery, so the artists represented are always changing.”
“What’s exciting to see is the number of artists interested and excited to be part of everything we’re doing,” says Montes. “I’m happy to take things slow and see the progression play out.”
“We still have a ways to go,” adds Reed, “but we’re on the right path.”
Continuum Art NC is located at 147-C 1st Ave. East in downtown Hendersonville. A three-day portrait-painting workshop with Kerry Dunn happens Friday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 7. The venue is seeking academic models for the course. For more information, including gallery showings and workshops, call 828-435-3300 or visit continuumartnc.com.