Bloomington nonprofit Artisan Alley renting new space for local artists


The entrance to Artisan Alley is pictured. Artisan Alley offers creative services and commercial spaces for the support of local artisans, according to its website. Joy Burton

Bloomington nonprofit Artisan Alley on Friday will start renting a corner in Art Beat, a new art gallery in College Mall.

Artisan Alley is a nonprofit organization providing studio space, gallery space, networking opportunities and more to artists of Bloomington. Art Beat is run by the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington. The Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington is an organization that promotes the sustainability of the creative arts community via communication and education.

“For a nonprofit, it’s hard to actively sell our artists’ work,” program coordinator James Tanford said. “So spaces like that allow our artists to have a new platform to showcase their work.”

Artisan Alley gives artists the opportunity to practice while reducing their financial burden, Tanford said.

“Enjoyment of the arts should be something that’s possible for everybody,” Tanford said. “And being an artist should be a viable career path for more people.”

Artisan Alley is made up of three locations, which encompass four resource spaces.

“We kind of try to give them whatever they want, any tools or resources that they need to be successful,” advertising coordinator and IU sophomore Lauren Scully said.

Founder and executive director Adam Nahas said Artisan Alley supports 80 to 90 artists, including volunteers and board members.

The main location on Second Street includes two resource spaces — the MADE Classroom & Co-Work Space and the Dimension’s Gallery. People can rent out the classroom or studios to work in, and rent out the gallery space. 

Twisted Art Lounge, located on Kirkwood Avenue, is an art lounge for networking and hangouts. The Burl & Ingot Tool Share Library is located on 11th Street and includes tools for industrial artists and more studios.

“I think our overarching goal is simply to give local artists a larger platform and connect them with other people interested in the arts and make art accessible to the community at large,” Tanford said. 

Artisan Alley supports a variety of artists, such as a glassblower, a barber and a tattoo artist, Tanford said.

Nahas graduated from IU in 2007 with a degree in studio art and specialties in metals and sculpture. Artisan Alley started with an idea from six or seven recently-graduated IU art students, he said. 

After graduating, the friends still wanted to get together and create art even though they did not have the tools and resources that they had at IU, Nahas said. They decided to pool their money to get a work facility. The group was called Blank Canvas and was active from 2007 to 2009, Nahas said.

“That kind of gave me a loose idea that different artist types could share the same type of environment provided they were kind of given their own area,” Nahas said.

Nahas said the group wanted more opportunities for the community to learn about art and create it. They wanted to build the organization.

To accomplish this goal, some members of Blank Canvas created the Trained Eye Art Center in 2010. This center offered classes and community events.

The Trained Eye Art Center existed for two years, and then Nahas lost his job and therefore money to support the center. The group had to leave its space on Fairview Street. Nahas said the old building is still covered in the group’s murals and filled with its sculptures.

The organization took a break when Nahas moved to California for a new job and to observe how other nonprofits functioned. The organization returned to Bloomington in 2014.

“That’s when we changed our name to Artisan Alley, which really helped us focus more on focusing not just fine artists, but artisans, or anyone who works with their hands to develop and grow things,” Nahas said.

Artisan Alley has expanded to include musicians, small businesses and software programs, Nahas said.

“I think there is art in everything,” Nahas said. “And there is an art to everything.”

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