Finding an ambitious and supportive creative community can be a daunting task for students making the transition from art school life to that of working artist. But for one group of alumni from the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department, the shift came a little easier—they decided to take the community they had formed at SVA with them. The result is a communal workspace and creative community called Brushwick Studio. SVA Close Up recently spoke with co-founder Ben Voldman (MFA 2011 Illustration as Visual Essay) to learn more about the Bushwick-based collective.
Brushwick Studio is completely run by SVA alumni. How did that come about? Did the idea for the collective originate while you all were in college?
The studio was started by Hyesu Lee, Chi Birmingham, Pat Kinsella, and I in our last year of the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program (class of 2011). In the MFA program you get to share a communal studio space with your fellow classmates, and when we were graduating we decided we wanted to keep that tradition and sense of community going by starting our own communal workspace in Bushwick.
Why did you decide to base the studio in Bushwick?
We decided to base our studio in the Morgantown neighborhood because it’s an awesome spot. Lots of artist studios all around, great bars and music…the area just has a great feeling of optimism and enthusiasm.
What kind of projects have you guys been commissioned to do so far, and what kind of projects do you hope to do in the future?
We are a studio of illustrators and we all work on various illustration projects for the advertising, publishing, editorial, and fine art markets. This month, Chi did some illustrations for The New York Times; Hyesu worked on a branding project for Kraft foods; Dasha Tolstikova (MFA 2012 Illustration as Visual Essay) is in a group show in San Francisco this month; Pat has illustrated for various editorial clients; and I’m working on some murals for a NYC advertising agency. Our work is really varied. Check on us in month and we will all be working on totally different projects!
How did your experience at SVA prepare you for the work you’re doing today?
I think the best way to become successful at any profession is to surround yourself with other people who are already successful in that profession. In SVA’s MFAI program, you get to study with Marshall Arisman, Mirko Ilic, Viktor Koen, Carol Fabricatore, David Sandlin, Carl Titolo, Matthew Richmond, Riccardo Vecchio, and the list goes on and on. Additionally, the program invites visiting artists and art directors to give lecture and critiques. I’ve met Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Aviva Michaelov, Jordan Awan, David Saylor, and tons of other people in the industry. These experiences were invaluable. (Also, students are guided through the program by the amazing Kim Ablondi.)
What’s next for Brushwick Studio?
We’re still growing and adding new members to the studio as well as participating in the larger art and illustration community. Later this month, we’ll be participating in the annual Bushwick Open Studios. Y’all should stop on by!