Where It's All About The Art

Trying Something New in Woonsocket

The Art Den

When I first decide to open an art studio, I had all these grand plans.  I knew the name was going to be The Art Den, so I searched and searched for the perfect location to match the name.  Where did I end up?  In an athletic club.

How and why, you ask?  I was working for a local newspaper, as a graphic/web designer.  Mike Reynolds, owner of the Rhode Island Athletic Club, was one of their clients and I had worked with him several times.  I told my husband, Steve, about the club.  He joined and quickly became friends with Mike.  During conversation one day, Steve mentioned to Mike that I was looking for a studio, but having difficulty finding the right place, and that it was really important to me to not be known as a "tattoo parlor".  Tattooing is only one aspect of what I do but, unfortunately, there are still prejudices that come with tattooing.  I also needed a space that was private for my scar coverage clients and, well, clients that just want privacy.

Next thing I know, Steve and Mike are presenting this idea about having just the tattooing portion of my studio at the club and keeping my working studio at my home.  There were two offices, right near the entrance of the club, that could serve as my office/tattoo room.  It would allow for privacy as well as keeping my business separate from the club.  The benefit to Mike?  People that work out love to get tattoos.  It would also bring in clients that may join the club (which it did).

Was it weird?  Yes.  Did it appeal to me?  Yes.  Since I couldn't find the right location anyway, and I couldn't (nor did I want to) tattoo out of my house, I figured it was worth a shot.  I came up with a three year game plan.  Within three years I would have a second location, preferable in the Rhode Island School of Design area (my alma mater) of Providence, where I would have a full studio and a small, private tattoo room.  I would keep the club location so I could stay in proximity to the Milford Regional Breast Center and continue to serve the new clients I would build-up over the three year period.

Did it work?  Yes.  I loved my time at the club.  Mike and his family/employees were so good to me.  He even got me to join our local Rotary Club and Autumnfest Steering committee with him.  I met lots of great people, gained many new clients and built a solid business.

Why did it end?  Because life is weird like that.  It was a prefect storm.  Mike was renting the building  that housed the club.  The owner did not keep up with it, especially the roof, causing hardship on all of us in the building.  I had to continually protect my ceiling from water damage/flooding.  After two years of this, I had decisions to make.  Mike did too.  I was also ready to expand and have the full studio I had been itching for - it was getting difficult to be in the middle of a project, run to the club for my appointment, then run back and finish my project.  I was starting to realize that two locations may not work out so well.

Why didn't I end up in Providence?  Because I fell in love with Woonsocket and cherished the friendships I had made.  So many people were supporting me and helping my business grow, I had become invested in Rotary and Autumnfest and I had learned so much about this city and it's history.  Another reason?  The Main Street area was in the process of revitalizing and becoming the Arts and Entertainment District of Woonsocket - perfect!

How did I pick this location?  I didn't, lol.  A friend of mine is a commercial realtor and the President of the Downtown Woonsocket Collaborative (major contributor and backing of the revitalization).  He found my new location and I knew, from the minute I saw it, I wanted it.  I would go from 300sf, to 900 (with a private bathroom/changing room for myself!!!).  Not the biggest place, but I saw possibilities.  I loved the layout and the location (right on the side of Chan's Fine Oriental Dining and Entertainment, across the street from Ciro's Tavern, Patio & Banquet Hall and one block from The Stadium Theater).  I also really liked the owners of the building.  They were down to earth and seemed to like my future plans for the studio.

I signed my lease and redesigned the space to make it my own:
I officially opened on May 1, 2017.  Just a few days later, my mentor, Derek "Goofy" Seaquist, the man who taught me how to tattoo, came to visit and check out the new space.  It just so happened that the unit on the side of me was opening up.  One conversation led to another and the next thing we knew, we were working together again:
We were thrilled.  We had really missed working together and sharing our love of art.  Our tattoo clients were happy as well!  Being on Main Street was great.  So much activity between the Ciro's/Chan's/Stadium triangle.  People were coming in just to check out something new.  No one had ever seen a "tattoo parlor" like ours (of course, we were quick to point out that we offer so much more).  The word spread and business grew.

At the same time, we started hosting "Gallery Nights" - a chance for other artists to use the studio, showcase their work and get the word out there.  This really went well.  Before we knew it, people were asking for us to host private events, paint and vino nights, etc.  We saw that this area was really in need of an art center, not just a studio.

So what did we do?  Took over another unit in the building to expand our Gallery and create an Art Room!  Right after Christmas, the paint rollers were out again and we were on our way:
We had our Grand Re-Opening on March 30th, 2018.  It was a great night.  So much support from friends, family and clients!
So, in under a year, I went from 300sf to 2200, gained a partner that I love to work with and finally have the Art Center I always dreamed of.

Our Gallery Nights are going well and many local artists have signed up for their own nights.  Our Create & Un~Wine nights are slower to take off, but we are feeling very encouraged by the feedback from those that have come to Create, Drink and Laugh with us.

What is next?  Nothing, lol.  Sort of.  Obviously I have started this blog.  I am also in the process of putting together newsletters for those that don't use Facebook or Google often.  But this doesn't feel like a chore to me.  I love writing and it's nice to reflect on past events while getting to share my excitement about the new projects/nights coming up.  But for expanding and re-purposing 285 Main Street, we're done and tired, yet satisfied.
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