To the casual passerby, the building at 302 West Sixth Street may not look all that different; but to anyone venturing through the front door, the developing transformation is instantly noticeable. The four-story, institutional looking brick building that previously housed the St. Barnabas Senior Center is undergoing a complete makeover, in both structure and attitude.
The first floor is home to a large event space, private offices and conference rooms. Artists fill the remainder of the ArtSpace studios that occupy the building’s top three floors. From tie-dye masters to fine art painters, each artist’s studio reflects his or her own personality. The camaraderie and creative energy can be felt as soon as the elevator doors open.
In their spare time, artists are adding their own eclectic, personal touches to the walls in the hallway between studios, transforming the white cinderblock canvas into a unique work of art. “The wall painting is something we never expected and we are so thankful that the artists have started doing it. It just adds to the whole creative atmosphere and makes it so fun,” says Melissa Siragusa, director of marketing and public relations for WorkSpace and the Chattanooga Market as a whole.
Each of the ArtSpace studio floors is equipped with a common lounge area, restroom facilities and a kitchen. “This has really been a labor of love for Chris. He’s had no outside funding and no loans. Every step of the way has turned out to be way more challenging than what he originally envisioned. Chris would never say this because he doesn’t ever talk like this, but I feel like this is really a gift to this city. It’s growing and supporting our art community by offering the artists a convenient, safe place to be, for really low rent,” says Siragusa.
Siragusa points out that the art studios are being occupied as soon as they are ready to be rented, without a formal marketing push. “Most of the artists here have heard about the building by word of mouth. It’s a great location, they can afford the rent and they trust Thomas because he has built such a good reputation through his other projects,” says Siragusa.
Shortly after moving to Chattanooga from Houston, Ali Kay moved her Positive Space Art Studio into the WorkSpace building in late March. Her happy, beautifully organized studio matches her personality and has been a welcome addition to the mix. “I’m excited for the opportunity to connect with other creative professionals. I also feel like I get more accomplished, by having a separation between my work and home life. I am hoping and expecting to see this vibrant art community continue to develop. I look forward to seeing even more collaboration between artists on projects and events at the studio,” says Kay.
As with any living entity, Chattanooga WorkSpace is continuing to evolve. This creative movement is exciting for not only the WorkSpace occupants and staff but for the entire community. As the building’s transformation progresses, the innovative energy will continue to grow, touching the lives of more and more individuals—ideally inspiring them to establish their own space to create.
From an article by Tara Williams for Chattanooga Magazine