On the corner of Jones and 13th streets in downtown Augusta stands a discreet, brick building with a large garage door that serves as the main entrance.
From the street, the building appears to be nothing more than a warehouse or storage space for a local business.
But as soon as the garage door is rolled up, a downtown secret is revealed.
About two years ago, four local artists — Jacob Vaz, Anna Patrick, Matt Porter and Jason Craig — began renting this stand-alone building in the heart of downtown and using it as their own private art studio.
The studio known as Pink Slips Analog, or PSA, was created because the artists wanted a large, open space where they could come and concentrate on their artwork without any outside distractions.
“We have been working here pretty quietly for the past few years,” local artist Jason Craig said. “We did a group show together at Sky City last year, but we all just kind of do our own projects out of this studio. This is our outlet to do anything we want.”
The artists have put a lot of work into transforming the building into an actual art studio, Craig said.
“When we first moved in, this entire room was filled with junk and the back wall didn’t exist,” Craig said, walking around the downtown studio. “We built the large table in the middle, which is the common area for everyone, and we developed our own individual spaces. And this place is highly productive. When we are in here, we are working.”
The art studio has such a unique synergy among all of the artists involved that has naturally developed over the past few years, Craig said.
“The co-op aspect of it is really cool. Like, we’ve never called ourselves a co-op, but we are really a true collaborative deal here,” Craig said. “Basically, the way I got involved, I wanted to find a place where I could do screen prints for shows and design conferences that I’m involved with around the country. Well, somebody told me to talk to Jacob (Vaz) because he was already doing screen printing and he had the tools and all kinds of supplies. Then, Matt Porter, who puts on events and DJs around town, like he does the Secret Record Night at The Bee’s Knees, he’ll come here and make all the flyers he needs.”
Everyone supports one another’s projects and respects the tools and supplies within the studio, he said.
“It’s not just like we are coming together with all these ideas and it’s just talk. We all have equipment to make it happen,” Craig said. “So we combine and do things way better than we could just by ourselves.”
However, a funny aspect about this downtown studio is all of the artists have such different work schedules that they hardly ever bump into one another, Craig said.
“We are very rarely here at the same time. A lot of times, I will come in and look for evidence of somebody being here,” Craig said, laughing. “But you’ll get to see the progress of everyone’s work around the studio. And if I’m in here working and I’m getting ready to leave, someone else will be tagging in as I’m tagging out. So really, throughout the day, there could be 20 hours of work being done by several people. It’s a working art studio, and we are all very respectful of each other’s space and time here.”
Matt Porter, a local artist who also happens to be the curator of education at the Morris Museum of Art, said it’s incredible the progress each individual makes in the downtown studio.
“It’s always kind of a trip to walk into the studio,” Porter said, chuckling. “You’ll be in there working on something and you’ll see some project that someone else is half finished with that they’re working on or painting. You can’t help but be curious about where it is going or even inspired by what they have left for you to wonder about.”
There is a natural camaraderie among the artists who share the space, Porter said.
“There is definitely a social element of the studio,” he said. “It’s a place where we can do creative work, independently, but in a shared space.”
Anna Patrick, a local artist who was recently accepted to grad school at The Art Institute of Chicago, has had several solo art exhibitions throughout Augusta featuring her soft sculptural pieces using traditional sewing methods.
When she first walked into the downtown studio about two years ago, she immediately fell in love with the space.
“It is just so open and having the storage up top above the studio, it’s just the perfect space for us,” Patrick said. “For me, I do simple sewing techniques, but I create larger sculptural pieces. I kind of use the techniques you use to make stuffed animals, but then I make more conceptual work. Prior to finding this studio, I used to be in such a small space and I didn’t have enough room to have a sewing space and a stuffing space. But here, I have plenty of room.”
The artists in the studio do everything from large canvas paintings to designing T-shirts, Patrick said.
“The four of us are really, really close, and we are able to give each other amazing critiques, but we all do totally different artwork, aesthetically,” Patrick said. “It’s funny how it happened with us, because it’s not like we really sat down and planned it. It was just like, we were all already friends and we got this opportunity to share this space together.”
INTRODUCING ART NIGHT
While the artists thoroughly enjoy their private studio, they have all agreed it’s time to roll up the garage door and share their space with the public — well, at least once a month.
Pink Slips Analog will host the first-ever Art Night from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the studio at 1236 Jones St.
“We want to make it a little more public,” Craig said. “It is not going to be a storefront or anything like that because we are still going to be working in here. But what we are going to do is on every third Thursday of the month from April to September, we are going to open up the doors and let anybody come in and have Art Night.”
The free event, which is intended for those 21 and older, is an opportunity for the public to come draw, paint and screen print with local artists.
There will be a DJ playing music in the studio and coolers for anyone who wants to bring their own beverages, he said.
“We are not going to serve any alcohol, but we will have coolers with ice and you can bring whatever and use our coolers. If you want to bring alcohol, you can,” Craig said. “We are providing people with the atmosphere.”
All the artists are asking is that members of the public bring their own supplies, Craig said.
“We’ll be here and we’ll print posters and, if you bring in a T-shirt, we’ll print it or let you print it. Art Night will just be fun,” Craig said. “And we’ll just see how it goes because we haven’t done anything like this before. We are calling this season one, so from April through September is season one. Even if only five people show up, it’ll be great. And if 50 people show up, we’ll deal with that, too.”
Art Night is meant for local artists and those who support local art to hang out and see what goes on in a working studio, Craig said.
“We’ll just swing the door open and let people come in and make whatever,” Craig said. “It might just be everybody sitting around drawing. It might be people coming in and painting. We might have one big project that everybody is working on. We just have got to see where it goes.”
The point is to enjoy the vibe created by this downtown art studio, he said.
“It is not something that is supposed to be intimidating for anybody,” Craig said. “It’s just a chance for people to come in the studio and do it the way we do it. And while some people may look at this as just a dingy garage, we are professional artists. This is what it means to be a professional artist.”
Art Night will be a positive experience for both the artists and the public, Patrick said.
“I think there are a lot of people that see something like a studio or a group of artists working together and they feel kind of excluded or that those artists are doing something that they are not,” Patrick said. “I think what Jason and I would love is for people to come and see that we are just a bunch of people working in the same space making art. I think it’s going to be fun and good for downtown.”
Porter said it will be interesting swinging open the doors and letting the public inside what was once their completely private space.
“A lot of times your artwork is kind of like your brain,” Porter said, laughing. “There is part of it that you are still kind of working through, so I think having people in that space sometimes it feels a little unexpected. But it also allows you to look at the work that you make in a way that hopefully can engage and provide conversation for people.”
WELCOMING MORE CREATIVE MINDS TO THE STUDIO
Because Patrick will be leaving for Chicago to attend grad school in a few months, Craig said he has been reaching out to other artists looking for studio space.
Earlier this year, Brian McGrath, owner of Sweet Sticks Skateboard Gallery, decided to become a part of the downtown studio.
“I just moved in there about a month ago, so I’m pretty new to the studio,” McGrath said. “I’m doing mostly screen printing in there and using the space for large art pieces and commissioned work. It’s really cool being around a community of other people making things. It’s a group of artists sharing a good space together and everything gets done well. There is really no boss or any rules to it. Everybody just does their own thing.”
With the addition of Art Night, McGrath said the local artists have an opportunity to expose more people to Augusta’s growing art scene.
“It’s motivating every time I go in there,” McGrath said. “I feel like I need to be doing something. I think people will really enjoy Art Night because they’ll be socializing, creating things and it kind of takes the big word of ‘art’ out of it.”
Art should not be viewed as stuffy or unwelcoming, McGrath said.
“People don’t say, ‘Hey, we are going downtown to do art tonight.’ It’s more like, ‘We are going to hang out, do this fun thing and end up being creative,’” McGrath explained. “That’s what it all boils down to. We are all creative people doing creative things.”
McGrath said he will be printing posters and possibly T-shirts during the first Art Night this month.
“It’s kind of like, bring your own T-shirt kind of thing. We are just going to show people the process,” McGrath said. “I think it’s important to see the other side of the canvas and what goes into it in order to tell a better story of where it came from.”
During Art Night, the public will see a new T-shirt or poster printed right in front of them.
“In screen printing, if you just try to tell them about the process, they might get a little lost, but if they see it in person, they are like, ‘Oh, this is like a big stencil,’” McGrath said. “It just makes more sense seeing the entire process.”
In this new space, McGrath said he is concentrating on his brand called “Muscle City” that he’s been developing for the past eight years.
“The concept is Muscle City is not really a place, but it is a positive mindset where anybody can be in that place if they are doing good things and getting stuff done,” McGrath said. “For now, we are just planning a restructure of Sweet Sticks. Meanwhile, I have been taking on more artwork and working behind the scenes at this new spot.”
Along with McGrath, local artist Lauryn Sprouse also recently began using the downtown art studio, Craig said.
“It’s just unlimited ideas in here,” Craig said. “And it’s cool because we are able to combine forces. We can make anything here. You can just walk in the door and walk out with a dozen T-shirts from idea to completion or 100 posters without ever having to leave or go buy anything. We do it all here.”
Craig hopes to one day see more art studios pop up in the downtown area, which could possibly help create an actual arts district in Augusta.
“People don’t understand that there is more than just saying, ‘All right, this is the arts district.’ There are tax benefits and incentives for moving art-based businesses into a designated district,” Craig said. “It’s not just a sign that you put up that says, ‘Welcome to the Arts District.’ No, no, no. There is a reason for it. It could completely transform downtown.”
And Craig hopes the Art Night on April 19 will be a step in the right direction.
“I can say, I have been involved in a lot of different arts groups, but these guys operate so differently than I do that it inspires me,” Craig said. “For example, I’ll come in here with a specific task in mind and I will cut something out of wood and take the remaining scrap and throw it toward the trash can. Well, the next time I’m here, one of these guys will pick up that scrap of wood and turn it into something incredible.”
That’s the kind of magic that Craig hopes Art Night will showcase and bring to the public.
“In this studio, we are in here with our heads down, working and people see the results,” he said. “But these artists also have this spontaneity that I don’t really have because I’m so structured and concentrated on the task at hand, so it makes me rethink what I’m doing by watching them create things.”
The artists involved with Pink Slips Analog simply want to promote those good artistic vibes throughout the local community, Craig said.
“It’s just cool to be around real artists in a working studio with a world of possibilities,” Craig said. “And we just want to share that with people.”
Art Night at Pink Slips
Thursday, April 19
1236 Jones St., downtown Augusta