Setting up a small site of community engaged art making

At our Art Hives Symposium in June, we were all asked if there was anything we would like to share from our experience of setting up small site of community engaged art making.

I thought about what I could share after years of helping Janis start community studios (aka Art Hives) in various locations across the country. Every space requires a different set of parameters but how each space is set up has a major impact on what art is made there. For example, a carpeted space will not invite messy painting to occur or a dimly lit space will not welcome small scissor cutting.

Here’s what I came up with so far.


Preferably the studio should be visible from the street. Ideally, with plenty of foot traffic to present the idea to many people and increase the curiosity of potential participants. This idea came from our research on the 100 community art studios that popped up in the 1930’s in the US as a WPA response to the Great Depression.  The officials made requirements to each state to provide a storefront location and the government at that time provided the paid artistic staff to facilitate the studio.


Think ‘barrier free’. The easier it is to enter the Hive, the more likely it will be entered. Door widths, ramps and accessible washrooms are worthy concerns when thinking about who may be coming. The standards are from the US. , since Canada doesn’t have a national disability policy. They are worth looking at for increased awareness.


What does the studio need to operate safely and efficiently?

For example: I have had to install utility sinks in most of the community art studios we have started or helped to start. Utility or laundry sinks are best because they are substantially deeper and wider than a regular kitchen sink and you can clean a greater variety of things in them. Mostly we would re-use a sink that had been discarded. Adding a sprayer or laundry faucet will increase the versatility even more.

Deciding where to locate the sink depends on a number of factors. Where should it be to provide easy access but not be in the way of the flow of traffic in the space? How difficult is it to connect to the water supply and to the drain? Are there previous existing plumbing connections that could be used?

Once your sink is installed you may want to have a shelf and a large bar of laundry soap near the sink for quick brush washing!

These are just a few of my initial thoughts to respond to space needs. Your particular Hive may have different issues. I would be happy to help in your planning. Please send your questions or space concerns and I will post future blogs as needs are identified.

Contact me at:  

Happy ‘Hive’ creating.      


Images: WPA Federal Art Center at the Municipal Auditorium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Website designed and maintained by Percolab