The Workshop

Lauren Coggins-Tuttle, Dan Van Landingham, Terry Crimmen and Tara Kenny.
Photograph by: Ralph Stewart

Lauren Coggins-tuttle, Dan Van Landingham, Terry Crimmen and Tara Kenney. 

There is a stereotype of the Vineyard artist: hunkered amongst the pastoral fields, stone walls, and shores of Chilmark, working in complete solitude, inspired by the serenity. But for the artists at Vineyard Haven’s newest gallery, The Workshop, this stereotype of the creative process is not only inaccurate, it’s downright boring.

The three painters, Lauren Coggins-Tuttle, Terry Crimmen, and Dan VanLandingham, originally partnered up with graphic designer Tara Kenny to seek affordable studio space. What they got was not only a workspace, but a gallery, an artists’ collective, and a creative environment in which they could thrive on the inspiration, encouragement — even the criticism — of their colleagues.

“I tried to paint in Chilmark last winter by myself, and I would get so bored,” Coggins-Tuttle said. “There was nothing to stimulate me. Here we can drop in on one another, or go get coffee. It’s a nicer pace than sitting in your house in the wintertime painting by yourself.” The artists agreed that there is nothing glorified about a home studio that doubles as a laundry room or kitchen.

Whenever one of the artists loses inspiration, or needs a break, they go check on the progress of their neighbors’ work (or else throw darts at the makeshift bull’s-eye painted on Mr. VanLandingham’s studio wall). “We do lots of critiques of each other’s paintings,” Ms. Coggins-Tuttle said. Mr. Crimmen added, “It’s a lot of fun when you have three people with master’s degrees in fine arts behind you telling you how to paint.”

The Workshop building, originally occupied by a model boat builder, is nestled between the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway and Jeffrey Serusa’s Seaworthy Gallery. It feels much bigger inside than its exterior would suggest. The foyer, and two rooms to the side, serve as the main gallery space. Farther down the hall, VanLandingham and Ms. Coggins-Tuttle each occupy a studio. Crimmen and Kenny each have a space upstairs. Coggins-Tuttle’s dog, Navajo, roams about like the proprietor.

“Our original intention was to find a space to work. I wanted a bigger studio, but the front room just looks like a gallery. It’s nice to have both things under one roof,” VanLandingham said. Having their own gallery space also allows the artists some versatility in their work. “It’s nice to work and not have to think about ‘Is this going to sell? Does this fit into the gallery?’” Coggins-Tuttle said. “You just paint what you were going to and then decide what you’re going to show.”

The group decides together what makes it into the gallery space, while trying to create a flow between the works of each artist. Since they opened last November, they have also displayed the work of other friends and artists. “We’d like to show other people’s art downstairs as much as our own,” Crimmen said, noting that artists could rent gallery space free of commission. “It’s an easier way for artists to start promoting themselves instead of waiting for someone to invite them into a gallery,” Coggins-Tuttle said. VanLandingham said it’s this approach that makes The Workshop more of an artists’ collective than a gallery. “We want to keep changing and evolving, instead of being a static gallery that shows the same artists year after year,” he said.

Visitors to The Workshop are allowed to see much more than the gallery space, however. A peek into the artists’ studios is part of the experience. “It’s not just a gallery, it’s not just about going to look at art on walls, it’s a place where people can come to see the process,” said Kenny. Coggins-Tuttle said, because she does abstract work, “it’s beneficial for people to see my process and inspiration instead of thinking I just did a fingerpainting.”

It’s constructive for the artists to welcome guests into their workspace as well. “It’s amazing how a little bit of feedback can make you think differently about your work,” Kenny said. “What might seem like the stupidest question actually gives us really great ideas.”

This client interaction is something the artists eventually want to extend, through workshops, demonstrations, how-to sessions, and artists’ talks. “We want to just keep changing it up so it’s not always the same thing,” VanLandingham said. “I think that’s what’s going to set us apart.”

Leave a reply

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites