Two local entrepreneurs create living, working and art space for area upstarts on Tatnall Street
Nestled among other buildings at 800 Tatnall St. is Artist Ave Station, its newly-painted white bricks and black-framed windows and doors a symbol of inspiration and imagination.
Created this past November by 28-year-old John Naughton and 31-year-old Jason Aviles, Artist Ave is an arts-based catalyst for creatives and entrepreneurs to balance living, working and art, all within the same space.
The two friends and local business owners spent a month gutting and remodeling the building—their shared artistic skill is interior design—and held a soft opening Dec. 31.
Although it’s reminiscent of local makerspace models CoIN Loft and 1313 Innovation, which encourage co-working and creativity, Artist Ave has its own personality. Just about anything goes here, according to Naughton and Aviles.
“One of the struggles of the artist is how to divide space,” says Aviles, also founder of Wilmington’s FLYOGI studio. “We’ve visited artists who have hundreds of canvases tossed about their living rooms, and right next to that is a jumbled kitchen. We’ve seen that artists could become much more organized when they have accessibility to live and create and work in one place, if the space is divided and you can define areas.”
Aviles and Naughton hope to create a sense of order and productivity by meeting artists’ living needs. To that end, they’ve created two luxury lofts above a ground-level showcasing and community co-working space, with a small “raw zone” workshop and artist lockers in the basement, which also features art, says Aviles.
The rules here are loosely-defined, he says, so artists are apt to paint on the walls, the stairway, the floors, the ceiling, to display art wherever inspiration strikes. Smashed Label, an artist featured last month, utilized the stairway wall heading into the basement with graffiti-style lettering.
“That freedom in a space really draws people in because that’s the number one thing for an artist that conflicts with their ideas and creativity—the boundaries,” says Aviles. “So here, we have an openness about that.”
Conveniently, Naughton, who owns Naughton Painting LLC, a West Fifth Street painting and dry wall repair firm, paints over the featured artist’s section of wall, floor or ceiling when the showcase is over, preparing the area for the next artist.
Artist Ave isn’t just open to painters. Photographers, graffiti artists, and clothing and accessory designers, “pretty much any artist,” is welcome to display their product, Naughton says. A gold membership of $150 a month allows members to hold one event a month, have 24-hour access to the building, and more. A $250 membership allows these privileges plus storage spaces, wall and desk space, and more.
Aviles and Naughton want to keep Artist Ave small. In fact, they want it to function as a transitional space or middle ground for creators. It’s not for the artist whose works are already displayed in store fronts, exactly, but it’s a sure step up from selling products and art from one’s home or car, Aviles explains—ideal for someone establishing his or her brand.
“It’s not a big space, so you have to figure out if it works for you,” says Naughton.
Artist Ave Station couldn’t have come to the city at a better time.
With the “explosion” of the Creative District and creativity in general in Wilmington, says Aviles, he and Naughton are optimistic and ambitious about the space’s role on Tatnall and in the surrounding area. They’re encouraged by the fact that the lofts are already rented and artists have joined the space.
Eventually, Aviles and Naughton say, they want to take this small-scale model and replicate it in large cities. But for now, they’re happy to be where they are.
“I think this is a model that’s needed, a shift from all the red tape,” says Aviles. “I think it can be a huge asset to the community, by helping to develop the future entrepreneurs and small business owners who can then bring innovation and energy to this city.”
Artist Ave is hosting paint nights open to the public each month, at $25 per person, which covers all supplies and instruction. Aviles and Naughton also are bringing in established artists to host educational workshops, which may focus on understanding business, finances, taxes—the more practical side of being a successful artist. Artist Ave is also on the monthly Art on the Town, coming up next on Friday, March 4. For pop-up events and features, visit artistavestation.com.