From Storage to Studios, Bridge Art Space gets creative

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Sculptor Kevin Richert’s workspace has all the usual trappings of an artist’s studio: white walls, piles of art supplies and collections of antiques. The studio’s location, however, is unusual. Richert works on the grounds of a storage rental facility—and soon he may be joined there by scores of additional artists.

Both storage facility and arts community, Bridge Storage and Art Space in Richmond’s Santa Fe neighborhood is in the process of adding 60 new art studios, with an estimated completion date of summer 2017.

“Many artists are moving to the area,” said Daryl Henline, General Manager of Bridge Storage and Art Space. “We’re responding to demand from the artist community here in Richmond.”

Founded in 1992 by father and son Jim and Jeff Wright, the Bridge Storage and Art Space was originally just Bridge Storage: hundreds of garage-like units held day-to-day things like lawn mowers, coolers, and old bikes.

About four years ago, Jeff Wright, an art enthusiast, suggested they attract customers by converting a few storage units into art studios. Artists began to trickle in. Since then, Jim and Jeff Wright have nurtured Bridge Arts as a space for local artists to create and collaborate.

Today, there are 25 climate-controlled, French-door clad artist studios sprinkled among the storage units, and recognizable for their canopies of string lights, mosaic murals and potted plants.

Henline affectionately referred to the area of the property where the studios are clustered as the “Arts District.”

Retired engineer and artist John Warhus has worked out of his studio at Bridge Arts for the last three years. Paintings of landscapes and still-lifes cover his studio walls. A work in progress—a portrait of a man in grayscale—sat on a nearby easel.

“I come here almost every day,” Warhus said. “Several of the artists, we’re all good friends, it’s a great community.”

Walk the property, and that becomes clear. Artists chat outside their studios and invite each other in to look at current projects. They congregate in a building that serves as a “lounge,” with a kitchen, living room, bathroom—and a place for Friday night movies.

At the heart of the Arts District is the BridgeMaker Arts Gallery, which hosts eight to ten exhibits per year, all open to the public. The gallery is currently hosting a retrospective of Alameda-based artist Sylvie Lukacova’s work. An exhibit on political art will open on October 8.

When the current expansion is complete, Bridge Arts will also be home to three studio building complexes dedicated to the “light arts”—including painting, drawing, fabric-making, and pottery—and a second building dedicated to music production.

What started out as an experiment in storage rental facility management has grown into a vibrant arts community. Henline is excited about the burgeoning art scene both at Bridge Arts and in the wider Richmond area.

“There’s a lot going on in the arts and culture world here underneath the surface,” he said.

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