BL&D Interview: Parkville Studios
Parkville Studios is an upstart artist collective based in Hartford. After graduating from nearby universities, the group came together to further pursue their own artistic endeavors, collaborate with the community, and create zines. The Collective has aspirations of becoming a formal organization that will help local artists grow their craft.
BL&D: Thank you, Parkville Studios, for making some time for us in your evening. I think it would be really helpful for you guys to introduce yourselves. Not only individually, but also as Parkville Studios.
Alexis Crowley: Hi, I'm Alexis Crowley. I went to school at UHart, and I graduated with my BFA in printmaking in 2015. That's where I met the majority of these humans who are also Parkville Studios. I have been making art for a while but also doing other things here and there and that includes teaching jewelry, working on conferences. It took me a long time to graduate and I finally graduated to please people, and then this space opened up and was offered through Jack Hollant, who is also part of Parkville Studios, and I was like, "wow, I think I can start making art." So that’s my story right now. I'll elaborate on that later.
Misha Izydorczak: My name is Misha. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor's in psychology. I studied a lot of research on language and cognitive psychology. I was pushed away from art at a very early age and after high school. My parents were immigrants and they told me I would never be able to make money off of art. So I pursued my degree in psychology instead. I think that did a lot of good for me. But when Angie texted me about the opportunity at Parkville, [of] course I said yes. I could still do this on the side [and] come in whenever I wanted to make art whenever I wanted to. It just gave me a space and I never really had a space before. I'm very thankful for that. I primarily work with paint and sculpture. But I also write a lot, and writing is what I like to do.
Justyna Dabrowski: My name is Justyna and I also graduated in 2015 at the University of Hartford. I have my BFA in painting and drawing with a minor in printmaking but my work is primarily painting. However, I like to include different mixed media elements along with fabric. I'm more interested in installation now. I’m working on how to weave painting into that. I also have a lot of experience working with different individuals through creative therapies with art. I think that influences me.
Angie Godoy: I’m Angie. I also graduated from UHart for painting. After graduation, I didn’t know where I was going to paint. When this opportunity presented itself, it kind of saved me a little bit because I lived in a really small apartment and didn’t think I was going to do any painting for a little while.
Jack Hollant: Hi, I’m Jack. I also graduated from UHart in 2015 with a BFA in painting. I'm primarily a painter. I usually work pretty large in scale so I didn’t really have a space to do it right after graduating. Angie and I made some agreement that we were going to meet up and paint, and did not do that once until this thing started. I am really excited about Parkville just to give myself an opportunity to still be making work outside of school because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Give me the timeline here. So you guys graduated in 2015, and this opportunity presented itself how long after?
JH: We moved in here January 2016.
So you guys were out of school for six months, and this happened?
Parkville Studios: Yeah, yes. Desperate.
Now that we’ve heard about yourselves, what is this place?
AC: So Parkville Studios started as a space that wants to become a nonprofit that incentivizes local Hartford artists to stay in the area. There's not very much affordable studio space or cultural reasoning to stay. There's not like a lot going on. You know it's difficult to want to stay basically.
MI: Especially being sandwiched between Boston and New York.
AC: Right. So Richard Hollant, Jack’s father and owner of CO:LAB next door, decided to start by privately funding and bringing us into this space with the goal of turning into a nonprofit that allows artists to stay here for two years at a time with very cheap rent. So basically we only pay utilities. It's providing affordable studio space for artists and keeping them in the area. But the intention is to also provide a sort of programming. We would offer things to the community and bring in other people to mentor us that are further along in the art career. That would be offered again to the next group of artists to come in two years. We haven't gotten to that part yet. Right now we're still just working as like artists in this privately funded space with the goal of becoming that. But we've been trying to stay true to that goal so we've been doing zines where we try to invite the community to put work in the zine. But we also try to make a space where the community can come together and celebrate that. So like we have zine release parties and everyone gets together and it's exciting.
So, day to day you guys have a space where you can make art.
AC: We've all made work that we probably wouldn't have been able to make without this space at all. I've been able to explore sculpture in a way that there's no way I would have been able to explore it home or if I found a space with the money that I make. The other thing is I am able to make drawings that are huge [and] that I can fit on these huge walls that we have here. I tried to make drawings at home in the six months that I was out of school before I came here and I just could not do it in the same freeing way that I can do it here.
MI: Right. And I know for me, I used to work out of my own apartment. My studio space was so close to my living space. So I like that this is separate from my living space because it motivates me to get to the studio. It motivates me to be here, see you guys here and work together here rather than, “I can do this later,” [or] “I see this every day.” That didn’t really drive me as much. Having the component of human interaction is very important for me personally because seeing a single person here is definitely super uplifting. You can talk, you can go unwind before you even start putting yourself into art. That's really important to me. I also think that there's a sense of responsibility for having this space and that has pushed me to want to make have more shows and make work that I can show. It’s our baby [and] you gotta keep nurturing it.
So you guys are a year and a half in. Do you guys have six months left, or is that going to get extended?
PS: Yeah. It’s going to get extended once the nonprofit has been solidified.
Outside looking in, if people are aware of you, they’re probably mostly aware of the zines.
PS: We’ve made three now. Those are so much fun. The first zine was just us, and it was a way of us being like, “This is who we are as ourselves, and also as Parkville Studios.”
AC: The first zine was definitely the hardest zine, I think.
JH: We didn’t really have a way to print it so we did it all at Alexis’s house. We spent so much on ink and it took a lot of time.
Do you still have digital copies of all of them?
PS: We do have online copies. The second was the Bad Art Zine. The Bad Art Zine happened when we started to invite in people from the community. We had a casting call where we advertised a lot online. We had some Facebook posts as well as an Instagram at that point.
MI: We made a couple of posts on Instagram and we received a bunch of emails with content to put inside of our art zine. We got together and we looked through all the things that were sent to us and we made things ourselves. Then we put it together in a format and then printed a whole bunch off of the website. That was a lot easier for us because we could order more copies, we didn’t have to use our own ink. We didn’t have to spend as much time bringing a copy from digital to physical.
The last one just came out, which was super fun. Thanks for collaborating with us on the Early Bird Social Club Brunch. Explain what the last one was about.
JD: That was our “Tell em why you mad” zine. This one was similar to our “Bad Art” zine where we asked the community to contribute. For this one we posed the question of why you’re mad about recent events that are happening.
Back up for a second and give the whole context.
AC: It’s called “Tell Em Why You Mad 2016-2017.” So we were talking about recent events, including of course the election, and things like that were happening politically. We wanted to have something that could referenced that without being too direct. We didn't want to tell you how to act you know and I mean like we clearly are upset about what's going on, but we wanted everyone else to tell us. There are a lot of things that have been upsetting,so maybe they want to vent about something else.
JD: We did get a lot of personal inquiries too.
Why were people mad?
JH: Someone wrote about how they got invited to places where they’d need a car, but didn’t have a ride.
MI: I sent a poem to the zine but, it got deleted. I was pretty pissed about that, so I put that in the zine.
AC: I think that was a really good page.
MI: I wrote a poem in an email, I was sitting on the couch writing it on my phone. I sent it, and then we were all getting together to review the material that was submitted, and it was just blank.
AC: We were like, Misha, why did you send us nothing?
MI: I was like, this is a joke, there’s no way. So I go back into my sent folder, and there was nothing there.
PS: We screenshotted it and put it in the zine.
So you guys are here at a lot of odd hours, but are you in the space every day?
PS: We wish we were, but we all have jobs. That definitely prevents us from being here all the time. And emotional lives too. We’re all emotional.
Do you guys have aspirations of this becoming a career?
AC: For me personally, yes, I want to be an artist forever, showing my work and all that good stuff. Selling it is less of an issue than showing it because I make installation. I don’t ever think of it, when I say career, that art is how I’m going to make my money. I don’t imagine that I’m going to make my money that way. I personally want to be a teacher, and with the non-profit thing we’re gonna do, we share what we know with people. That could be a way for me to practice teaching to the community. I also already teach on the side, so I already have that under my belt. But, I could use this to get towards my goal of teaching at a higher level as well.
JH: Yea, I guess I always wanted to be doing art professionally. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. I think I wound up with a little too much student loan debt to actually free myself up to actively pursue that right now, but I’m doing what I can.
JD: I think my answer is similar to what Alexis was saying. I would also like to be a career artist, that’s what I’ve always thought of my future self as, but I don’t think it would be where the funds come from. I would be ok with those coming from something else.
MI: I would love to be, but it’s hard. It’s a hard concept for me that I’ve been fighting with for a very long time. I don’t know that I have the confidence right now in my life to pursue that goal in terms of paying for my supplies. It takes me a while to buy chicken wire, and wood, and plaster, and water is free, but everything else costs. So, in order for me to make a good amount of money being an artist, I have to make enough money to be an artist. It’s just a cycle.
AG: I do.
PS: You’re kind of already doing that, because you’re painting and making murals.
Were you just making a mural? Where was that?
AG: Yea, at an office space in Newington.
Do you guys have a perspective on art as a job or art as a business?
MI: We were talking the other day about how we have been breaking even with putting our money into the zines and getting that money back. That to us has been an incredible success because, just thinking that we have enough money to cover the materials is really cool. I was never taught that you could make money making art. The success of breaking even has been really motivating, I think. It makes me want to keep making things, it makes me feel like we can.
I think it’s really interesting what some people are doing with art in order to create value. We, at Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, think of things with a lens that has a lot to do with creation of value, the creation of new things. We’re in the business of creating new things. We’ve seen a lot of artist groups and individual artists who essentially hacked how you create value for other people. It’s a weird thing to do, but it’s sort of fundamental in my very narrow view of the art world, because art is essentially only as valuable as the materials, or less valuable because you’ve destroyed the materials in some sense of the word.
AC: In some really weird practical way, yes.
JD: The values really in the idea, the thought, and other people’s perception of that value.
AC: But, it’s more than the sum of the materials, theoretically.
Yea, but it’s almost nothing to do with the parts, which is more interesting, I think. Have you guys looked at that at all? I feel like that’s not really what they teach you at art school.
AC: I feel like there are casual conversations that exist within art school. You’re just sitting around with your professor and other students talking about, “How do you make money in the art world? What makes money in the art world? Why are things disproportionately valuable?” It’s basically branding. I, personally, have never really understood that. So, I just shy away from thinking about my work in terms of money. I think about value as experience, like experiential value. That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it. That’s partially why I don't think about becoming a career artist, because I can’t figure out what’s going on over there. I admire people who can think about it that way.
Do you guys have people that you admire in the art world?
PS: Kevin Hernandez (laughs).
MI: I wrote a poem about Kevin the other day, and it’s sort of relevant to this concept. We have a group text and I’ve been submitting my daily poems there. I’ve been doing a poem a day in August. My last one was about Kevin Hernandez, who’s a local artist from UHart. He’s a sculptor and he graduated with a sculpture degree. Basically, my poem was roughly about looking at materials and giving them conversation and meaning. You are giving items concepts, and you’re making them valuable based on the concepts that you’re giving them. I feel like Kevin does that really well. His sculptures tend to be really abstract and I feel like there’s a lot of meaning behind them. That’s just my interpretation of what he does, maybe it’s just because it’s very vague. I really admire him in that sense. We were all talking about how we value his opinion, and he’s just a local Hartford artist.
That’s really cool that you have a local inspiration. Any other names or reasons you guys enjoy art?
AC: Jayson Musson is an artist that I look up to a lot. He does a range of work. He’s really famous for this series called “Art Thoughts.” He did an installation with Alex Da Corte at Mass MOCA. The room was all lit up in a particular way, they put a different floor down, they had fake oranges on the floor, they had the smell of oranges in an essential oil diffuser, and they had four walls with different videos on them. I think there was two days worth of video. They were like abstract images of people doing things. Modern objects, plasticy, people doing weird stuff. And then they had a score, a voiceover, and subtitles. They referenced literature, philosophy, psychology, and made fun of it, but also didn’t make fun of it. It was just so immersive and intense, and funny. It was about the experience of being there, there was lots of thought. That’s the kind of work that someday I would like to make. I like that there’s humor in it, but it’s also pretty serious. It deals with a lot of serious, serious material.
There’s always truth in comedy. Have you guys heard of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe?
AC: I heard about that, I actually would love to go to that.
I was put on to Meow Wolf by a friend. It’s a massive business that is an art cooperative. They create an immersive art experience that’s like a giant amusement park, but it’s all created by the art cooperative that owns it. They’ve raised millions of dollars privately to do this. Essentially, they made a massive business out of art with artists, which is pretty unique. The other guy is Theaster Gates. I would say he is my favorite artist.
PS: Is he out of Chicago?
Yes, he is out of Chicago. He is a trained sculptor, a trained ceramicist, and an urban planner. He really cares about community and place. So he took what he knew, and created this elaborate dinner party, that was sort of based on a lie. He claimed that the dishware at this party was somehow related to this Japanese ceramicist who had come here after a war. More or less, he created value for these objects, which were his objects, by kind of lying about them. The whole point of the dinner was to create and leverage place and people to create new value where people didn’t see value, like on the south side of Chicago. Another thing he did was take these dilapidated houses on the south side and turn them into mini museums. It’s all very culture and community oriented. That really, really fascinated me, because he essentially created value out of the only things he had available to him.
PS: I think that’s really important. I wish we could think on a scale like that. We’re still pretty small. But, the second we plug into that non-profit world, we’re going to build so big; all over this city.
AC: I think what you’re talking about is where a lot of art is going now. Immersive things, that do become some sort of business as well as an art form.
I frankly couldn’t agree more about the premise of this place; the need to create a place where art can sustain itself in Hartford is vital.
AC: The next step is getting some of the abandoned buildings and spaces to let us show things in it, and let other people in Hartford to show things and have events in it, instead of just having them sitting the empty with nothing going on, and everyone being frustrated.
PS: Tell em why you mad.
MI: No it’s totally true. There are a few places over here that haven’t been used, and we really wanted to set up installations. But, we are renting out of this place so we don’t want to be disrespectful of the space. It would be really cool.
Don’t wait on us, but I can say we’re working on it. That’s all I’ll say right now.
MI: If we knew we weren’t going to get in trouble for setting up an art show in an abandoned factory, then we would probably have done it already.
So, what’s next?
PS: We’re going to releasing a new zine soon. Gotta keep that ball rolling. We haven’t really discussed it yet, but we know the next zine’s title and theme is “Fall is My Kink.” We like to keep things a mystery at Parkville. We don’t know what it is until the very last minute, but we do put a lot of thought behind them. That’s why it’s last minute when we figure it out. We’ve been thinking that whole time.
Photography by Eric Casey