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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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A cast molds together at The Foundry

There’s something burgeoning at 16 South Tracy. If you were the type of person scavenging for new Bozeman trends this might be the first stop on your hunt.

Inside, there is an energy insulated by a patchwork of inventiveness. The Foundry—“a creative syndicate,” as the motto goes—houses nearly a dozen artists of varying degrees, splitting the costs of a street-level location in downtown Bozeman.

According to their Facebook page, the idea is to foster “imagination, collaboration and industry through a co-working space, clubhouse, retail location and gallery for local artists, and small business owners.”

This description may sound like a rag-tag hangout, but it’s more like a tapestry.

At the moment the tenancy is full with an architect/graphic designer, a graphic designer/web designer, web developer/magazine editor, oil painter, screen printer/clothing designer, photographer, mixed-media collage artist, architect/painter, ceramic artist, two sound designers, and a black-and-white photography studio available for rent by the hour.

“My sister and I were working out of her garage and it wasn’t functioning for us,” Tatum Johnson, The Foundry’s creator says, “Before this, we were coffee-shop hopping.”

“When we started looking around everything was either too big or too much money,” Tatum says, “To pull off our business we needed the right space and a slew of people to make it affordable.”

It started with an ad on craigslist and grew from there.

“Someone knew a friend who needed a space and so on,” Johnson says. “Most of us work from 8-to-5, but The Foundry doesn’t keep traditional hours. It’s like, if the light’s on, come on in.”

Tatum’s and her sister’s business, a silk-screening and clothing design company named Intrigue Ink, operates from one of the five work areas on the first floor. The Foundry consists of two floors; the main floor offers a shared conference table and a small gallery near the South Tracy Street entrance, and a basement without any natural lighting. Of the latter, the no-light, underground feel is perfect for the photography studio and darkroom there, as well as two sound designers, brothers Zack and Nick Vowell, with work hours that reportedly start around midnight.

“Sometimes, when I’m working late, I see the Vowell brothers coming in and it feels like the place just keeps going,” architect and graphic artist Orlando Piva says, adding that the whole thing evolved during the downturn in the economy, when he realized there wasn’t enough affordable office space to start a business on his own.

Photographer Justine Cranford agrees. “I was looking for a space just like this one,” she says. “I saw a few people were teaming up for office space, but nothing like this.”

One of the most attractive qualities of The Foundry is how everyone works like a dynamic electrical circuit, operating in parallel and in series, simultaneously. They even network together—teaming up on projects they might not otherwise have been able to get.

The overall affordability and low rent (anywhere from $65 to $300 plus $65 for utilities) hinges on keeping the downstairs occupied, accomplished at the moment by turning an old dressing room into a ceramic art studio, for example, or a former utility room into a painter’s space and a dark room.

“It’s okay with the people who work there,” Tatum says. “I don’t think everybody wants a cubicle.”

So for as little as $130 a month you might work under the stairs—which, historically, isn’t such a bad place to be. Think: Harry Potter’s humble abode below the stairs at the Dursely’s on Privet Drive.

“When I got out of school,” Cranford says, “the thing I really missed most was getting feedback.”

Now Cranford can walk upstairs and ask any number of people for their opinion on a detail or choice of color.

Tatum loves the artist/community component of The Foundry: “It allows us to play the creative card instead of the business card all the time,” she says.

Walking through the door, past the tee-shirts and prints, there's an open area they use communally for client meetings, layout space and an art gallery. Serena Finn is at work on her laptop near the back of the room, and this month's resident artist Shane Johnson’s mixed-media collage art hangs on one wall. Behind Serena's desk is that of Brian Thabault, founder of Theory Magazine (and a comrade-in-arms with the Magpie). Near the stairwell in the back of the entry level, the vivid palette of James Weikert's contemporary paintings far outpace the black-and-white tiles of the checkerboard floor.

“We’re going to be part of the Art Walks and the Downtown Business Association,” Johnson says. “We want to get ourselves out there.”

The mixed-use feel is a work in progress—and maybe always will be—depending on the momentary chemistry between the folks who are in residence.

“I’d like to see the walk-in traffic being better,” Cranford says. “It doesn’t quite feel like a gallery yet.”

An impromptu scene unfolds as the mailman comes in with an envelope.

“Anybody here by this name?” he asks. The envelope gets passed around and handed back. “Just thought I’d check,” he says, and walks back out.

You can’t blame him. It’s an unusual place of business with a cavalcade of people who make their art here. And, as Tatum says, there’s a big need to educate people about the place, not least of which is the postal service.


Author's note:  Artist William Hawkins Hunter’s work will take up residency in the gallery this week, with an opening day celebration on March 28th from 5-8 p.m. at 16 South Tracy. Check it out??

For a complete listing of the 32 articles Michele Corriel has composed for the Magpie—most of them somewhere along her path around Bozeman's art world—please link here.

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