My wife, Nan, and I are tackling three separate build projects at the same time, and budget constraints necessitated that I do a fair bit of the largest of the three, the construction of my new, app. 1,100 sf art studio, as d.i.y. as possible. But I was excited to take on the project, and, with my old studio being converted into extra living quarters, a.k.a. an ADU (additional dwelling unit), there wasn't much I could be doing art-wise anyway, without resorting to renting a temporary studio space.
I can't make use of the room one of our grown kids, recently married, vacated - Nan bases her private, dyslexia remediation practice from the spare room, and that's how we found out about John Hockman and his design/build firm, Prospect Builders - via the parents of one of her students. Most of my late winter, spring and summer was spent gearing up for the projects, all three of which John had designed. After storing all the items my studio and separate 1 car garage had contained in a storage unit a mile away or so, I demoed and removed all traces of the garage, along with, after jack hammering it into manageable chunks, a portion of the concrete drive and the garage floor. Next I rented a mini-excavator and dug trenches for the water and sewer line (as all three builds will have need for both).
Then, the project was put on temporary hold so that I could focus on a couple other projects. We own two rental homes on our block, and one was in dire need of a facelift, inside and out. Much of the summer found me spearheading that effort, and I'm excited to show it off to my wife later this week, and to get it back on the rental market.
The other, more primary reason I put my d.i.y. studio project on ice through much of the summer was to focus on a public art project, once I found out, sometime in June, that I was a finalist.
(Before elaborating on the process of applying for public art projects, I just want to say that very often, when you peel back the neat and tidy moniker "full time artist", this is what you find: multiple, and often diverse, income streams. Currently, my wife and I have five, I believe - not counting the sub-categories. At times, that number has been more like seven or eight. Matches our number of kids. We currently have five. Had to sell two or three. Lean years. You do what you have to do. Kept the best ones;)
Speaking of categories and sub-categories, public art is an arena that I've attempted to enter many times since 2012, when I resumed a fine art practice, which was a sideline to my full time sculpture tech job until March of 2016, and has been "full time" ever since.
As yet another aside, earlier this year, I was at my son Nate's swim practice when I got a Google Alert, which automatically informs me when my name is mentioned in an article. I took a look. It was a nice one about the swell founders of Nine Dot Arts, a powerhouse of a Denver-based art consultancy, written by Christine DeOrio in 5280 Magazine, entitled Meet Denver's Art Concierges. In the second paragraph, DeOrio wrote,
"Since founding Nine Dot Arts in 2009, Weidmann and Casey—both formally trained studio artists—have helped clients in more than 33 states and four countries source original works by emerging and established artists from Colorado and around the globe. Along the way, they’ve helped launch the careers of local favorites Ian Fisher, Sandra Fettingis, and Andrew Ramiro Tirado, to name a few..."
Sometime soon I need to write a post about Nine Dot Arts and art consultancy services in general. I'll put it on my long and growing to-do list.
Anyhow, as I humorously responded to the article in my post Launch Party! soon thereafter,
"Did you miss it? I nearly did - the announcement that it's official: among others, I've launched. My art career has taken off.
Speaking of grabbing the steering wheel, I'd better do so now and leave a more dedicated focus on public art for another day, other than to say the following:
Having been told, late in August, that my public art proposal had been chosen for the Tulsa, OK-based public art project, I let John Hockman know I'd like to get an estimate for what it would cost for Prospect Builders to "GC" (be the general contractor for) the studio build, along with the other two builds - it looked like I'd have my hands full with the Tulsa project.
While his resulting price was fair and reasonable, after carefully weighing all available options, my wife and I decided I would go ahead and GC the project myself.
I could have called this post I'll Manage, because that's the season I'm in, and will be in, for the foreseeable future. Speaking of GCing, for the public art project, that's basically my current role, evaluating bids and subbing work out to other fabricators, at least for the first few months. A good bit of the piece I designed has to be fabricated by others with the requisite machinery and expertise anyway.
Once my new studio is open for business, slated for early December, I plan to once again don my trusty studio apron and put the new space through its paces, along with my replacement at the Colorado College, who, having resigned from the school last year, and who's now living in Vermont, will soon be back in the Springs. (Now, how to keep him here...)
In order to expedite my new studio's completion, though, I had to kiss my do-it-yourself plans goodbye, both to focus on art and to make way for larger crews with more expertise in all things home (and art studio) construction. The studio's framing, for example, which would have taken me at least a month and a half of head scratching to complete on my own, should take two contiguous weekends later this month.
The only real downside to kissing my d.i.y. studio intentions goodbye is what I imagine would be the tremendous satisfaction of walking into a space that you built with your own bare hands. Of knowing every step of the process. Every detail. The gauge of the electrical wire within every drywall-buried conduit.
But, living right next door to the build, and deciding on details like the grade (Architect Reserve, Double Hung, Black) and the option of hardware (Rustic Collection, Distressed Bronze) that the Pella windows I just ordered will have, I'll be close enough to the pulse to feel like I'm in the loop, and while I'll be focusing my creative efforts on an even more engaging public art project for the city of Tulsa in the interim, as I said, I don't think I'll have any problem managing.
Just the other day, I flipped a couple CMU blocks on end, sat down on them, and watched one of the masons as he, along with two others, deftly built the studio's stem wall. It's not half bad - heck, it's downright enjoyable - to sit in the sun on a crisp, clear, Colorado day, watching someone else break a sweat. More to the point, it's amazing to witness what someone with decades of dedicated skill and evident love of his craft can do - I've seen his work with cultured stone - even with a block wall. Such artistry.
In perhaps his mid-sixties, he told me that his report cards from way back in Kindergarten mentioned his evident love of building - that he always knew he wanted to work with concrete and stone. No, I'm blessed to have men with such abilities hard at work on my behalf.
Later that day, with the other three sides of the stem wall built, he and the other primary gentleman building the wall approached each other along the studio's 50' south side, block by block, only to meet with a perfectly fitting block - perhaps 3/8" of a concrete-filled gap on either side - like the meeting of the two halves of the transcontinental railroad. Later still, I stood on the highest dirt mound within the studio perimeter, imagining what the completed space will look like. Soon, the dirt that was beneath my feet will be backfilled into the trench that my friend Geoffrey and I dug in preparation for the foundation footer and stem wall.
(BTW, Geoffrey is also adding a new outbuilding, and despite starting the process months after I did, he's a step ahead of me.)
Next, the dirt within the studio will be graded - lowered to about 4.5" below the top of the stem wall. Soon thereafter, the real fun will begin: a pumper truck will back up to the site and the studio's floor, a.k.a. the flatwork, will be poured.
A few days later, a delivery of custom built parallel chord trusses will arrive. The studio's 2 x 6 framing and OSB sheathing is already on site.
I don't play poker, but I think Nan would concur that however unskilled I'd be at the game, I'd at least have a decent poker face. It can be frustrating for her to know when I'm excited by, say, the upcoming trip to Napa Valley we'll be making. I am excited - so excited - only, I just can hide it.
Be that as it may, I think she'd also agree that it's clear that, far from dejected that, along with the excess dirt, I'll be burying my d.i.y. plans for the studio, I'm out of my gourd excited.
Follow @artstudiobuild on Instagram or, for you locals, drive through the alley behind the house, times my contractors have left enough room to do so (sorry, Pam, et al! I keep requesting that they park on the street!), for the latest studio build developments.