It is amazing how jigsaw puzzles always seem to fit and with every piece that fits a new sense of euphoria follows as you put each one into place.
Our puzzle for the last year and half, midway through our planned three year experiment has been how we can make the most of our artist studios at Warehouse 4726. At the beginning the Warehouse had five studios and a gallery space that also worked as a communal gathering space. Shortly into our experiment, we were informed that the space would have eventually morph into a different, more open floor plan. The puzzle pieces we had laid out began to change.
After renovation, the space became a large open area with five studios, a smaller common work area and no gallery/event space. Our mission evolved and it allowed for new possibilities and removed others. From the start, our main goals were to nurture connections to creativity and build community. In spite of the physical changes, these goals remain our focus.
We decided to continue opening for the third Saturday night event, Bird Road Artwalk but we quickly realized this was one part of our puzzle that was also changed. Without a gallery, the monthly visit became “Open Studio Night”; the night we share our studios and work with visitors. The idea was that we would open our doors and be present in our studios, and host visitors as they came through. Sharing about our work is great but we felt it was not enough: we wanted the event to have a clearer purpose and a functionality that fit our mission. It was like looking for a puzzle piece without the picture.
Another part of this puzzle is how Jean has really become a fan of certain podcasts. Because of her daily commute, ranging anywhere from one to two hours (each way), she found podcasts that expound on topics that are on interest to her. One of them is Hidden Brain - and a recent episode called “The Edge Effect.”
The episode looked at “the powerful connection between the ideas we dream up and the people who surround us, and what it really takes to think outside the box.” It shared stories of people who crossed cultures, like Christina Pato who plays Galician bagpipes as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s musical collaboration Silk Road Ensemble, and looked at the power of cross-cultural relationships to increase creativity. Jean was inspired by the concepts, music and the look into the relationship of creativity to diversity and she wanted to share it and have a conversation about it. Her excitement was what moved us to take a chance and include the podcast as part of our monthly open studio night.
Throughout our time in the studio, we have often had conversations with visitors about our creativity and our processes; but we find that many people have a hard time identifying or connecting with their own creativity. As we prepared for the podcast conversation, we ran into young people that expressed interest in the arts and in defining their creativity, while denying it even exists. People like Natalie, who sold us the technology we needed to play the podcast. When Jean used her studio card to pay, Natalie was curious about what we do. Upon learning we were artists, she immediately opened up and shared with us her passion about art and her love of culture. Within the span of 10 minutes, she shared so much of her own story about her relationship to art and creativity including a Charlie Chaplin tattoo that, on the surface, is about that artist’s life and challenges but, as she revealed through her conversation, was really about her relationship with her father and their shared time spent watching his movies.
Fast forward to the next night: we opened our door for Open Studio Night and our very first visitor was a young man we'll call R. R was not our usual visitor; we usually welcome groups of two or three visitors at a time. A first time visitor, he came solo and was curious about the studio. We asked if he was an artist and he said no. But then, we started talking about creativity, drawing, and painting and he was suddenly eager to share his own drawings with us. Then he shared his travel photos, taken and saved on his phone, and we learned that he has traveled extensively and photographs everywhere he goes. We asked where he was from and he told us he was born in the Philippines and grew up in Chicago. Then, he began to tell us the story of his grandfather, back in the Philippines, making homemade charcoal sticks and drawing intricate faces with them on walls. This was a very early and strong memory for him, and it was a clear connection to his need to draw today.
As the evening drew on, more and more people arrived. We decided to play the podcast for the several people who were there. Everyone settled in and the podcast began; as hosts, we were a little nervous. Playing the podcast meant that we were asking our guests to sit quietly for about 30 minutes and listen to something that we felt was important. To our great relief, everyone listened so attentively and conversation really only broke out during the commercials. When the podcast started up again, guests would shush each other so that we could all be quiet and listen. We realized everyone was enjoying the talk and we were thrilled when, after the podcast ended, the conversation started in earnest. People were talking about the topics in the podcast, talking about their experiences with different cultures and diversity, talking about their travel experiences and how enriching they were. The evening was a success. The podcast gave us information about diversity and its effect on creativity, and then it sparked a conversation about that topic among our guests. People who came after the podcast had ended were drawn into the conversation, too.
We had found a new piece to the puzzle of the Open Studio Night and what it can offer us and our community. We really want to create opportunities for people to connect, to talk about things that are important to them, and to explore how we can discover our own creativity. We realize that not everyone thinks they are artists but part of what we’re trying to do at Warehouse 4726 is to support the idea that creativity is something we all have access to, something that we all need in order to solve problems, to overcome obstacles, to lead a full and satisfying life. We also know that creativity is something that needs to be nurtured. So having conversations around the things that connect and nurture your creative child are really important to us.
Discovering this new piece of the puzzle of what Warehouse 4726 can do was really an exhilarating moment for us. The puzzle pieces are changing, indeed the entire image of what the puzzle looks like is morphing into something unexpected and new. Our event nights changed from a Gallery Night to an Open Studio Night; now to an Open Studio / Conversation night. In hosting these events, we’re not just talking about art we make in our space (which has its own value, of course) but art, culture, exploration, discovery, and diversity: all of which can only make our community stronger.
You can hear the postcast, and subscribe to Hidden Brain HERE. You can sign up for our newsletter, to get invites to upcoming events at our website, warehouse4726. Our next Open Studio Night is Saturday, August 18th. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for the next conversation - now, all we have to do is find the next podcast!
Warehouse 4726 exists as a working arts/studio space in The Bird Road Arts District in Miami. Operated by Jean Blackwell Font and Ignacio Font, both visual artists, with partnership from Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Founder and Director of Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator.