Studio Union is a professional art space in North Charleston with a mission to offer long-term, affordable rent for creatives in a dynamic and inspiring communal environment.
Founded by long-time friends and collaborators Susan Gregory and Tracey Pickard, the eclectic, women-run space opened in late 2019. The studio currently represents 17 artists, including potters, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, painters and more. A selection of Studio Union artists recently participated in a diverse and impactful group show at Redux: “Studio Union: An Art Junction,” which ran from Feb. 4 -March 19.
Artist Susan Gregory was a founding member of cone 10 studios, which hosted artists from 2005-2019, first on Meeting Street and then Morrison Drive. Development ultimately closed cone 10. After losing this hub, Gregory decided to take matters into her own hands and, in 2019, she opened Studio Union.
Resident John Jamison calls the space “naturally collaborative” and said he’s grateful for the artistic communities at downtown’s Redux and now Studio Union.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be part of several different Charleston artist communities,” he said. “When I was younger, places like Tivoli or Outer Space, both of which don’t exist anymore, were also spaces where experimentation was allowed, if not encouraged.”
Studio spaces cost $300 a month, or $175 to share with another artist. During a tour of the bright and airy space, Gregory recalls how she was once unsure if she would be able to fill up all the studios. Now, just a few years later, all the studio spaces are filled, with a waitlist to get in.
“We’re just trying to make a space where we can all work and stay without being run off again,” she said.
Artists and guests enter the studio at the “dirty” side where ceramicists share materials and ideas. It’s adjacent to a “cleaner” mixed media side which holds studio space for painters, textile and other mixed media artists.
Studio Union’s Hackemann Avenue warehouse space once served as an auto repair and upholstery service. It was filled with boats and junk when Gregory and Pickard first found it. Pickard, an experienced contractor, could envision the space as an art studio, and so she asked Gregory to collaborate with her. Gregory describes the process of renovation as “getting to know’’ the space, explaining how they painted the light pink floors by hand and divided up studio spaces. She sees Studio Union as a continuation of the building’s history. Studio Union artists are “the next group to work with our hands here,” she said.
Colin Peterson of Trim Pottery has been involved since Studio Union’s inception. He marvels at how he watched a vacant building turn into an “incredible collective.”
“The collective clay knowledge at this studio is unmatched, and I am beyond grateful to be a part of it,” he said.
The community cultivated at Studio Union is a rare and valuable asset to the artists working there. When ceramist Nadia Steiglitz moved to Charleston from Brooklyn, she felt Charleston’s “lack of investment in the arts,” made it difficult for local artists to work and collaborate.
“I know many artists who are seeking studio spaces,” she said. “Artists find themselves working from home, whether they have the space for it or not … It’s a waste of talent and creativity. My wish for the future would be for the city to renovate underused or empty places in Charleston and North Charleston to transform them into studios where artists and artisans can work together and thrive.”
Cristina Victor, who works in textiles, ceramics and public projects, agrees. “I’d like to see more interdisciplinary work celebrated, more opportunities to have experiences that provoke dialogue,” she said. “Work that gets weird and celebrates absurdity.”
Peterson shares the sentiment. “Personally, I could do without another plein air marsh scene,” he said. “The more we support our artists in Charleston, the more artists will want to come here.”
Help the City Paper keep delivering excellence
Winner of top 2021 state journalism honors (best editorial writing and best cartoon), the Charleston City Paper brings you the Best of Charleston every day. Support our “unafraid” journalism with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.