In the three years she's had a studio in the Northrup King Building, Minneapolis artist Leslie Barlow noticed something peculiar: There were hardly any artists of color, or young artists, in the busy Northeast arts hub.
It seemed incongruent with the Twin Cities she knew from her teaching work at the University of Minnesota, Metro State and Juxtaposition Arts, and her own experience as an artist of color. Not only is it hard to find a supportive artist community, Barlow realized, but studio space is like paying a second rent.
"As I thought about it more, I wondered what would be the ideal space — if I was fresh out of school or looking to really grow deeper in my practice, what would I need?" she said.
Barlow's answer is Studio #400, a program that offers affordable studio space, community and collaborative opportunities to artists under age 30, prioritizing people of color. Applications opened in January, and by February the program had secured a fourth-floor space at Northrup King. Barlow's friend Eric Hedberg volunteered to build out the walls. Out of 30 applications, Studio #400 chose nine resident artists, and invited them in.
Each pays $100 a month for an open studio space, thanks in part to a subsidy by Public Functionary, the northeast Minneapolis exhibition organization, which has partnered with Barlow. Northrup King building manager Debbie Woodward is also onboard, having noticed the lack of diversity there.
Public Functionary co-founder Tricia Heuring, a friend and mentor to Barlow, has played an integral role in making the space what it is. It made sense to join forces, given that Public Functionary is in transition, having closed its space in northeast Minneapolis this spring as it searches for a larger multiuse facility that will allow it to grow. Barlow, 29, had her first solo exhibition there in 2017.
"For me, it is supporting Leslie's visions," said Heuring by phone. "She is one of the artists supporting our community, and then in turn supporting all of these artists in the space."
Part of the strategy for having an open studio is the hope that artists will get to know one another, collaborate and eventually go off and find their own space. After all, this is just an incubator — it's not forever.
Bris Carbajal, 26, is one of the nine new residents. A designer who graduated from Minneapolis Community and Technical College four years ago, she noted how hard it is to find studios that are affordable — not to mention the chance to work alongside like-minded artists.
"We are all super-eager to grow and we are at the same level, and are moving into making our careers, so I definitely feel like it is a community," said Carbajal, who is Mexican-American. "It's cool that it's directed toward people of color, so I felt comfortable in applying."