Studio Visit

Maritza Ruiz-Kim: Martinez, California

Edited by Paula Fava

“In one year I went from having a small area in a shared artists’ studio to having my own brick-and-mortar space and launching an artist-run gallery,” says Maritza-Ruiz Kim. “It wasn’t something I set out to do. But when presented with a set of problems and a criteria of needs for my studio practice, that’s exactly what happened.”

The Studio Mind, Maritza Ruiz-Kim's new gallery/studio

The Studio Mind, Maritza Ruiz-Kim’s new gallery/studio

“I was comfortable in my well-managed Oakland studio in the back of The Compound Gallery in Fall 2015. Then life happened. I became homebound caring for my nine-year-old son. I made a space in my bedroom for a makeshift studio. I did as much as I could, but even that bit of artmaking became impossible. Eventually, my son was diagnosed with autism. After a lot of creative and legal energy, my husband and I connected him with the school resources he needed. Six months passed since I’d been to my studio.

“The first day he returned to school, I started to look for a new space closer to home.  Large commercial rentals posed problems: Overhead. Huge square-footage. Business park aesthetic. Alienation from the art community. Could I create something of my own? Imitate the business plan of the studio I was leaving, which was a place that had community, access to tools, three gallery spaces, a retail shop, and more? I only had to think about it briefly to know I couldn’t. Could I build a non-profit community space instead? I considered what would benefit people most, how I could work with grants to support that work, and how I would keep my art practice while managing the non-profit. I knew it was impossible.

“These are the kinds of questions that undergird the work of artists: Where can I make my work? How can I have enough space? How can I afford the rent, the materials, the supporting equipment, and my life? How can I have time? How can I be a part of a community, or exhibit what I make? How do I make my best work? How do I not just pack it all up and quit?

A picture taken the first day I found the space

A direct view of the storefront, taken the first day I found the space

A view from the garden path

A view from the street. The garden path leads to The Studio Mind.

“The answers to these questions are what brought me back to a place I saw on the first day I began my search:  a 700-square-foot space in an old reinforced brick building in downtown Martinez, 25 miles northeast of Oakland but just six miles from my home. I didn’t have a firm long-term plan to pay for the overhead, but I had the finances to get started. I made a business plan with financial goals. I brainstormed income-generating ideas, examined the realities of my schedule, and plotted the layout of my studio. I dreamt about the possibilities. I negotiated with the landlord by sharing my intention to use the space to serve the community with art. Then I signed the three year lease.


Before & After: from office space to gallery/studio

“I paid a contractor to do the heavy work of removing the cheap stained carpet, which exposed motley concrete flooring underneath. He painted the walls a bright white. The rest of it was on me. It took a full month in the heat of summer to move my studio from Oakland. I found free furniture on Craigslist. I thought about what the studio would look like and what might happen there, and I researched similar places I liked so I could have a starting point. Since it would be public and not private, I used a branding process to consistently present my space to the world. I considered my logo, website, and printed materials alongside the arrangement of acquired furniture, signage, and window displays. I wanted to keep it authentic to me as an artist even as I wanted it to be a place for others to have a deep inquiry into art. I made a list of descriptive words to capture the heart of what I wanted. These words guided every decision. I named the space The Studio Mind.

Behind the curtain: a space for my studio practice

Behind the curtain: space for my studio practice

“I set the floor plan, branded the space to the extent I could, and held a grand opening reception with a show of my recent work, which give me time to build a quarterly exhibition calendar. My hope is that the Bay Area artists whose work I exhibit will prompt an engaging discourse between the local community and contemporary art. The inaugural exhibition will open in mid-February. I set a schedule of hours for the gallery to match the busiest foot-traffic time in the downtown area, which pushes me to maintain a regular in-studio schedule (my worktables and materials are in the back). Having my studio behind the gallery also allows me to share my artwork with local business owners, art advocates, the art curious, and even just passers-by who want to know, “what is this place?” The storefront has provided the physical room to work freely with plenty of wall space to hang my work, and it’s even made new partnerships possible. I recently signed a contract to design a new art curriculum and teach it to children. I’ve had more community connections than I could have had otherwise, some of which have brought income I needed for overhead costs.

“As doors closed to working in one place, I opened a new door to my own artist-run gallery. For a long time I questioned if I was serious about being an artist. But here I am, whether there is interest in what I make or not, still doing what I do, finding ways to share it, and exhibiting other artists’ work too. It turns out that’s all the proof of seriousness I need.” — Maritza Ruiz-Kim


Studio Visit

Kathy Cantwell: Maplewood, N.J.

.Edited by Paula Fava

“The truth about me is I am a clutterer,” says Kathy Cantwell. “I work in a basement studio in my house. The 572-square-foot studio has eight-foot ceilings and three huge windows. The outside entrance is flanked by a sitting porch for quiet contemplation. My lighting is LED high hats and an excellent southwest exposure. There is a great sense of terra firma in this studio because I’m on the ground floor. I consider this my best studio to date.”


“Half the studio is dedicated to encaustic which has an 8-by-3-foot table with flat file underneath, a Vent-A-Fume exhaust through the window, and two palettes against a wall between two windows.”


“Across the studio sits a table for working in oil. I put up stringers along the wall to allow me to arrange the work for viewing in various ways. My painting storage is mostly in another area in the basement and is becoming a force to be reckoned with. I grew into this space as opposed to conceiving of it in its entirety. When I’m ready I can finish the rest of the basement and double my space. “

Kathy Cantwell’s report on the crit group she moderates is the subject of this issue’s Open Call.

Studio Visit

Edited by Paula Fava

In this new regular feature we’ll visit the studios of some of our members, getting to see spaces as diverse as the artists and the works they create. With David A. Clark’s new studio we see a polished space in a commercial art district that can function as studio, workshop and gallery. Marilyn Banner’s clean white studio can operate much the same and is only a winding walkway from her own back door. Just as close to home, Cheryl McClure works from inside her garage studio, drawing inspiration from the expansive views that surround her. Beverly Rippel’s outdoor studio was selected for its fresh sea-air appeal and fond ties to the creative stirrings in her childhood.

David A. Clark
David A Clark studio, Palm Springs, California, with the artist at the press in the background. Photo: Lance Gerber

David A. Clark studio, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Lance Gerber

A clean, well-lighted space: “I have a 1200-square-foot studio in the Back Street Art District in Palm Springs. I’ve been in this studio since March 2016, and it has already transformed the way I work. The abundant light and amount of space has allowed me to work larger scale. The expansive white walls allow me to hang work, really stand back and contemplate the images on which I am working. I jump for joy each day when I walk in the door and turn on the lights.”

Marilyn Banner

     Marilyn Banner Studio, Takoma Park, Maryland
Below: A meandering path leads from home to studio


Skylights and privacy: “This is my backyard studio, completed late in 2014, with a curving “magic path” that leads to and from my house. I asked the architect and builder for the largest structure possible, legally. The space is about 350 square feet. Highlights for me are the skylights, high windows with a view of trees, overhead fans, and 11-foot walls (up to 18 feet at the ceiling pinnacle). The walls have an extra layer of one-half-inch plywood so nails do not wiggle out. I have a storage area and enough privacy for my old boom box to play loud music.”

Cheryl McClure 

Cheryl McClure studio, Overton, Texas Below: A view of the hayfield on her ranch

Cheryl McClure studio, Overton, Texas
Below: A view of the hayfield on her ranch


Room with a view: “This is the room in my garage-apartment studio, next door to my house in Overton, Texas, which I use for encaustic painting. I have three rooms in the studio, which is about 850 square feet. The kitchen is the room I use for encaustic. It’s not pretty, but it is functional and has served me since 2008 when I moved to the ranch. The landscape here is what I see from the back door. I am inspired daily by what I see around me.”

Beverly Rippel 

Beverly Rippel summer studio, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Beverly Rippel summer studio, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Al fresco inspiration: “This is my Studio-By-The-Sea, a sanctuary I have been coming to since I was five years old, located in Lanesville/Gloucester on Cape Ann in Massachusetts. Though I have two other formal studios (one in an old Boot Factory by the Stoughton Train Station, and one in the Boston Arts District), I get to set up and work here for one week each summer. Here, nature’s elements–the mist, the sounds and smells of the ocean, the incoming and outgoing tides–all get mixed up in the orchestration of the paint.”