Words by Alyssa Stevenson
In a hidden building off of Woodrow, there is an artist collective hiding behind the industrial spaces. A space where artists have studio space to work and create, artists have gallery showings, epic late night neo-dance parties take place - all in the heart of Denton. Read on to find out why Rachel Fischer and Abby Sherrill believe that being unconventional is worth it.
This summer, we had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Rachel Fisher and Abby Sherrill, the co-founders of Brick Haus Collective, an arts collective in the heart of Denton. Rachel and Abbey were both wanting to stay in Denton after they finished school, so they started looking for studio space together.
While looking through real estate listings for a home, Fischer stumbled across a space listed in the commercial openings. 48 hours later they were signing a lease and getting ready to roll up their sleeves. They knew there were other artists looking for space, as well, but there wasn't anyone who had started a collaborative work-space yet. "We wanted the space originally because we needed the space, and we knew others who needed the space." Rachel said, "Downtown isn't the only place that things can happen. Art happens wherever it can happen."
Brick Haus may seem unconventional at first glance, but once you enter, you immediately understand why it works. It is a large industrial space, with concrete floors, simple walls and a giant garage door that opens up to a tree filled area, that allows for plenty of natural light. While it may not have all of the bells and whistles as some spaces, it is begging for creative expression to happen all over it.
Shortly after they signed the lease they were awarded one of the first ever Nasher Scuplture Center Microgrants, which helped them get off the ground and running. The pair are quite the team - they do all of the business management, marketing, outreach and organizing themselves. They both also teach adjunct, create art themselves, and help gain exposure for other artists through events and exhibitions. They believe that artists have to be like Swiss army knives; you have to be able to do all of these other things, have all of these other tools, in order to have a sustainable art career.
Rachel said that while they were looking for a space they realized that, "We're going to have to do it ourselves." They acknowledged that taking on the project of an art collective was overwhelming for one person alone, but together they feel like they had a support system and could accomplish their goals.
"None of it has been easy, but it has been amazing to see how many people have helped and supported us," Sherrill said as she thought back through the challenges they've faced. They did a major overhaul of the space when they signed for it. It was an auto shop before they were there. They scrubbed floors, cleared out discarded trash, installed simple furniture,build floating walls, and much more.
As far as the continued growth and sustainability of the arts community is concerned Fischer said, "Artists are able to do things on their own. They don't need what everyone else needs, they need space to thrive. If other businesses want to support the arts - they need to ask and realize that art leaves places in better shape than they come in. If you give people a little bit of breathing room, it can be a really amazing thing."
The collective continues to grow, and this year they will be hosting their first juried exhibition. Keep up with them through their website and Facebook page, so that you can be a part of the experiences they're creating as well.