By Kate Joyce
In the Spring of 2007 artist Anne Laddon decided to address what she saw as an urgent need in her city: Paso Robles was missing a center for its growing art community. Now, her vision for an active, involved space for artists and art lovers alike is complete. Studios on the Park opened its doors in May of 2009 and has already begun to serve as a major hub of Paso Robles' thriving art community. Anne is pleased to say that Studios on the Park has opened to "tremendous public support."
From its location along the tree-lined eastern edge of Paso Robles City Park, Studios on the Park boasts an array of activities for visitors and community members, as well as the opportunity for visitors to purchase and learn about art being made locally.
Studios on the Park resides in a historic building which has, over its long history, housed an auto-repair shop and a variety of auto show rooms. Though the building has gone through extensive renovations in order to take its newest form as home to Studios on the Park, much of the original character remains intact. The facade, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, faces the park and lets in abundant light as it has done for years. The Studios on the Park sign on the front of the building has been designed to mirror old-fashioned auto-repair shop signs and decorative touches throughout the building remind visitors of the history of the space.
Anne thinks back to the state of the building when she first was considering it for the Studios on the Park space, "There was no electricity, no plumbing, no bathroom, no air-conditioning." Besides all this the earthquake-damaged building had been empty for years and needed a lot of structural strengthening. Part of getting Studios on the Park off the ground was finding the perfect space, and Anne knew that with a lot of work, the building she had chosen would be perfect.
Now, the lobby into Studios on the Park opens to a large, industrial-style space which is divided into ten studios. Each work-space is shared between two or more artists. The layout also includes the Paso Robles Art Association Gallery, a classroom and the administrative office of Studios on the Park. One of the areas houses a printmaking studio.
Artists work in a variety of mediums at Studios on the Park, including oil and acrylic painting, ceramics, encaustic, printmaking, collage, photography, silversmithing and watercolor. Styles range from very traditional to contemporary abstract, and the band of artists even boasts a retired Disney animator among the ranks. Artists hail from the area encompassing Cambria, Los Osos, Atascadero and Templeton as well as Paso Robles.
The unique combination of artist work-space with places for visitors to view the art being made is at the heart of Studios on the Park. Anne's vision, based on an interactive art community which she had been part of in the Washington DC area during the 1970s and 80s, was for a working set of studios, not only a gallery, to be available to patrons. Visitors are encouraged to pause and watch as artists work, and to ask questions of the artists. And, says Anne, "You are not going to get a sales pitch here. This is not a commercial gallery."
Each artist commits to this form of studio space when they become a member of Studios on the Park. They agree to be in their studios working while Studios on the Park is open to the public so that they can be a resource to visitors. If they are unable to be in the studio during business hours, they can arrange for another artist or their studio-mate to take their place. This means that visitors get a chance to learn about how the work they are viewing was made, and the thought process that went into each piece.
Another component to Studios on the Park is its involvement in the community. This connection to the community was a part of Anne's vision from day one. A variety of classes are offered through out the year, and range from still-life drawing for adults to youth classes which help kids repurpose their old denim jackets. other recent children's classes have involved painting self-portraits and portraits of pets. Artists are encouraged to rent out the classroom and put on classes of their own, to share their visions with the community.
Studios on the Park also puts on the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts in the downtown's City Park each Memorial Day weekend. On that Saturday, a group of invited artists set up their work in tents throughout the park. Some artists set up their work in Studios on the Park as well, giving the downtown a festival fee. Each year the artists are asked to create work based on a theme.
In 2009 the theme "Follow The River, Paint The Dream" was chosen for the festival in order to raise awareness of the Salinas River Corridor. The funds raised by the event made possible the purchase of over one-hundred acres of Salinas River land by the City of Paso Robles, to be set aside for conservation.
Anne says that at Studios on the Park they "have a lot of pots on the stove--with classes for under-served youth and collaborations with local high-schools." With its continued presence both in the community and in its space downtown, this newest member of the Paso Robles art community has already had a huge impact on the landscape of the arts in Paso Robles.
Studios on the Park, at 1130 Pine Street in Paso Robles, is open Thursday - Sunday, with hours depending on the season. See www.studiosonthepark.org or call (805)238-9800 for information and hours.