Art in Unexpected Places

The hub city hosts an impressive art scene

By Clayton Kimbell
Photos by Tarryn Lambert

Art on display

Residing on the Llano Estacado, Lubbock finds itself standing on an enormous rolling Caprock. With such a location, an artist might avoid the city in hopes of a more inspiring or artistic place. However, when artists find themselves at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, their opinion could easily change. With the first Friday Art Walk, students indulge in local art from artists all around the city. While a student explores the different buildings of the Art Walk that encompass the art exhibits, one particular building of art exhibits is also the artist's studio and living quarters. The building works as a gallery that gives the artist the possibility of getting out of bed and into a studio that provides workspace.

The Charles Adams Studio Project is the first building in Lubbock to give an artist a place to live and to provide a studio for the artist, all connected for easy access. Artists, however, must take part in fierce competition to call the building their home, but with Charles Adams' dream to build more projects to house local artists, artists with determination might find themselves at a building that includes everything they need for success.

Paintings on display Adams does not live in the studio projects, but his office sits next to his studio projects. His office, packed with a variety of local artists' creations, is open for the public on the Art Walk each month. His desk sits in front of hundreds of different styles of picture frames. Adams' business is a frame shop, the Charles Adams Gallery, and he has been in the framing business since 1972. His dog lies basking in the sun as the light shines in through the front side of the building, brightened by gigantic garage windows that open for the hundreds of viewers each month. "It is my dream," Adams said.

For seven years, Adams has had the dream to build these studio projects in Lubbock. These types of buildings, which cater directly to artists, are popular in many different cities in the United States, Adams said. Until a year and a half ago however, Lubbock has not had these buildings to provide for the local artistic community. Adams said that the studio is 1,600 square feet with 1,400 square feet going directly to studio space. Adams said the amount of space provided in this downtown area would go for up to $3,000 dollars a month for rent, but through the studio project program, artists must only pay $400 per month for rent. The studio project program requires artists to create a body of work that the Charles Adams' board of seven members approves of.

Artists living in the studio projects are required to create events that display their work and be a part of the Underwood Center events. Adams said the original plan was to build up to 20 studio residences, but because of high costs, the new plan is to build roughly designed warehouses that will serve the same purpose. The warehouses, however, will work differently in that multiple artists will use the same facility. Adams said everybody knew about the studio projects so far out in advance that he received many applicants. The future of the studio projects is changing while the application process to apply for a studio project evolves, as well.

From Adams' gallery toward the office of Linda Cullum is a short walk. The Underwood campus is compacted with buildings close together. The studio projects rest behind a graffiti-covered building that sits alongside a pottery building. Cullum is one of the four residents of the studio project, but she has an office at the main building of the Underwood campus. Cullum leaves the studio projects and then simply walks to work. Living in her studio for the past eight years on the very edge of Lubbock, Cullum recently moved in January to the studio projects. "I personally would never go back," Cullum said in her office. Many replicas of beautiful pictures resting in their original forms in the Underwood galleries surround Cullum as she talks. "It is a huge opportunity," she said. Cullum said an advantage of the space is that she is right there with her work. She said waking up in the middle of the night and walking to her studio when she is inspired is remarkable. "If you get inspired," Cullum said, "you can walk right in there and get something done." The studio project is beautiful, she said. She has taken the 1,600 square feet provided for the studio and separated the space into a gallery and studio for workspace privacy. Being a painter and a welder, Cullum previously had built her apartment in her old welding shop. Cullum said the major exposure an artist can get from living in the studio projects is beneficial. Cullum said, while smiling, that any local artist, who is focused and dedicated to taking art beyond a hobby has enormous opportunity by living in a studio project.

The studio projects are unique to Lubbock, although the practice is popular in many different cities including San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Studio housing projects exist throughout the United States. With different studio projects around the United States practicing different ways of housing artists, the Charles Adams Studio Project has been about finding a certain niche as well. From eventually inviting artists to come to Lubbock with an affordable stay, or providing artists with new resources for creativity, the Charles Adams Studio Project wants to provide new ways of benefiting dedicated artists. When visiting the current studio project, a gallery viewer might not even realize what is beyond the gallery wall. The gallery is large and elegant and provides viewers with the space to move around the room. The art is prevalent on each side, and each suite of the studio project attunes to a certain theme the artist wishes to create. One suite even displays a warning sign in the front, asking viewers who are easily offended to beware. The building, rich with culture, is a sight to enter. As millions of people scour cities to buy and bring art into their homes, these unique artists create art from within their home and invite hundreds to enter as guests.

Art on display When stepping through the crowd as the sun glared down, the sight of the studio project did not hint at the building hosting the artist's living quarters. The crowd was rich with conversation, but when entering the gallery, the conversation turned to inner monologue as viewers reasoned with what they viewed on the walls in their minds. The Southwest influenced the art in the gallery; the message the art illustrated was almost direct. "Do you know this artist actually lives here?" said a girl examining a work of the art without turning to look at whom she was talking with. Alyssa Ramirez, a Texas Tech University art major, was intently analyzing a piece of art on the wall in front of her. "The fact that this building houses these artists and gives them a place to work is amazing," she said. Ramirez, studying to become an art teacher for almost three years, was still very intent on pursuing the degree. "To have this resource, to just wake up and create," Ramirez said, "would be so beneficial to any determined artist." Ramirez said Jeff Wheeler, a Texas Tech art teacher, was living in one of the studio projects. "He is a very good artist," Ramirez said. "He has helped me a lot in my degree." Turning her eyes only to the next painting on the wall, Ramirez described the studio projects as being a great opportunity. "I'm very interested to see what this building has started for art in Lubbock," Ramirez said, "Art is such a major part of growth in a town, and these projects can grow to serve many future artists to come."

"It was hard making them happen," Charles Adams said about the studio projects, "certainly not hard filling them." Adams said it is not uncommon to have artists in residency programs, and in the future, the studio projects will be created to bring artists together in a single workspace with a variety of tools at each artist's disposal. "We want multiple artists using one facility," Adams said, "we're going to do welding and metal casting, we hope to do glass blowing, we're going to do print making." Adams is on track to begin building more affordable studio projects to meet Lubbock's studio project demand.

The idea to cater to the needs of an artist, all in one space, has now reached the windy plains. The concept is popular, and Lubbock has now found its own way of helping artists in the city. The Charles Adams Studio Project is committed to reaching the needs of local artists. The studio project, with the help of Charles Adams, and the works of artists living there, such as Linda Cullum and Jeff Wheeler, turns living quarters into creative workshops. The future will only bring more growth for the studio projects. Artists in Lubbock can take advantage of what the studio projects offer. "We are just trying to add to the Lubbock community," Adams said.