Earlier this month, Redux Contemporary Art Center made a big announcement — the nonprofit arts organization is moving to a 15,000 sq. foot space on Upper King Street next year. Relocating from their 7,200 sq. foot location on St. Philip Street, Redux's executive director Stacy Huggins calls the move, "a dream." And it looks like Huggins' dream may be shared by many area artists, especially photographers.
"We were really Goldilocks about the whole thing," says Huggins of Redux's search for the ideal new location. The art center's board started looking for a new spot about five years ago, when they realized that the rise in rent prices downtown would eventually threaten their St. Philip Street existence. Like the fairytale's mismatched bowls of porridge, Huggins and crew kept running into spaces that didn't quite fit their needs. "We looked at so many places with strange configurations," says Huggins.
And then 1056 King St., the former location of Port City Paper and a roller skating rink, and often called The Hanger, became available. The building is owned by several partners, including Ham Morrison, a local contractor, realtor, and racecar driver. For 15 years the two-story building has been empty, save for a few of Morrison's race cars. The Hanger, according to Huggins, is structurally sound, and home to hidden gems like storefront windows that are currently bricked over, but will be revealed in the next few months.
"We aren't doing anything structural inside," says Huggins. "We're restoring the existing building." And with this restoration comes a myriad of opportunities, with Redux expanding their studio space from 16 studios to over 35. Huggins isn't sure what the final number will be yet, but Redux will be offering spaces that range in size from 95 sq. feet to 190 sq. feet.
Huggins envisions the Hanger as a functioning and thriving art community, where artists of all mediums and backgrounds can come together and influence and inspire one another. Photographers, who will have their own allocated studios — a rarity in the city — may be the most excited about Redux's growth.
Jack Alterman, a local photographer and a member of Redux's board, helped create the new Redux Center for Photography, which will include a photo studio available to members for half-day and full day time slots, along with a photography-centric gallery space. While Redux has always had a dark room, the center has never had enough space to dedicate entirely to photographers.
"It's very inspiring to both painters and photographers," says Alterman, who, like Huggins, believes in the creative power of shared art spaces. Of Redux's 17 current studio artists, 14 are women and nine are painters, a statistic Huggins hopes to challenge with the increased number of studios. "I want to add more diversity with gender, race, and genre," she says.
She and Alterman are already attracting local photographers with the Redux Center for Photography, with Alterman predicting that the King Street space will house a proportionate number of photographers to other artists, about four or five.
"It's a real building, not someone's garage," says Alterman, referring to the lack of physical studio spaces for photographers in Charleston.
Local photographer Alice Keeney, a photojournalist and commercial and wedding photographer, knows this all too well. Keeney currently works out of her house after she tried renting a space, one that ended up being too expensive. She plans on renting studio space at Redux.
Keeney likes that Redux will offer a shared space and access to a photo studio. "I'll be interacting with other creatives. Photography is very solitary with editing and computer work," she says.
The shared space is ideal for networking as well, with Redux artists like painters and jewelry-makers able to have high-res images of their work taken by in-studio photographers. It's little details like this — Keeney is excited about the prospect of photographing a painting down the hallway, not one that has to travel to her house — that add up to big wins for Charleston's photography community, and the community at large.
"It's so cool to be up in this area," says Keeney. "It's nice to see buildings with life breathed into them."