By Reeve Washburn, Art Walk Coordinator
All juju aside, Randy McCoy has been on the receiving end of a lot of life synchronicity. You could also say he has a talent for being in the right places in the right times – but that’s not giving credit to the passion, hard work and good decisions that have shaped his contribution to the Seattle art scene: space to create. Randy McCoy is an artist who mostly makes paintings, and is the owner of The Building, a West Seattle work space for artists of all kinds – architects, fiber artists, lighting designers, encaustic, paint and print arts. He founded The Building with a vision of making great, under-market, permanent working studio space for visual artists. No corporate approximation of what a studio should be. The Building was built by artists, is run by artists and owned by an artist. Real and unique, like the work within it.
Making Space for Art
Randy McCoy came cross-country to Seattle from New York at the very front edge of the Grunge-era creative explosion, with rolled-up canvases and a punk rock soundtrack. He credits juju for his early connections with the painters at the 1020 First Ave. South warehouse near the Kingdome, making lasting friendships. From the moment of his arrival, Randy also benefited from artists making space for artists: a large section of the warehouse’s second floor had already been master-leased and subdivided into studio spaces by artist Tony Horn, who was ahead of the curve for SoDo space use.
Next up was a similar project in Ballard where Randy helped build out new studio spaces in exchange for rent. When the artist/builder bailed, Randy became a reluctant landlord. He gradually expanded his leasehold in Ballard, balancing his own painting, exhibiting and collaboration with artists by working as a studio assistant and building new studios himself, honing skills in steel stud framing and drywall hanging. He credits a real estate mentor for deepening his view of the kind of good he could do for the art community. Randy also feels that his path was helped by his own credibility within the community from being a practicing visual artist. He has shown his paintings in over 40 group shows and 15 solo shows in galleries across the country.
“Artists need good, unusual space to find what it is that makes good art – and they need to be able to afford it.” Randy McCoy, Artist and Owner, The Building
Single Name, Broad Meaning
The Band. The Cure. The Mona Lisa. The Building. It’s one name, simple, humble, but also proud. It says “meaningful things are happening here.” In early 2008, Randy made a big financial gamble to purchase and get the City to permit a former church elementary school building as an art space. Fortunately, he won, thanks to more good juju and his close-to-two decades of master-leasing and building-out of studio spaces. His timing couldn’t have been better, because The Building squeaked through with his bank’s last commercial real estate loan before the financial crisis. Art triumphs!
The Building has seen many generations of artists since 2008, and currently has nine artists or groups practicing a broad range of media and techniques within. A sampling of profiles shows that range and what the space means to those practicing within:
- Shaun Doll of NW Encaustic Gallery was the anchor tenant and continues to be a huge booster for the space and the arts. Shaun teaches printmaking and encaustic painting at Pratt Fine Arts Center and uses The Building as a teaching studio, offering classes and space for encaustic painting. The Gallery is presenting the shimmering encaustics of Salyna Gracie through October, with the opening reception at the September 12 Art Walk.
I chose this building for its location and for the artistic community therein.
- Flóra Carlile-Kovács uses the ancient textile process of felting for her art, combining wool and silk fibers and silk fabrics, water, soap, and vigorous kneading to make durable, unwoven felt. She also makes wearable art, theatrical hats and wall art. Flora feels that art is a great community organizer, and showing and teaching art is a great way to connect to the neighborhood.
The Building is a quiet creative space where I can work in peace and is a convenient walking distance from my home.
- Aubrey Birdwell creates mixed media sculpture and installations often as a vehicle for language. Their pieces are generally constructed from materials found and salvaged from the unconscious waste stream of the city.
I didn’t choose The Building. The building fell onto me. The surrounding area is so quaint and calm. It is a very serene and quiet place of meditation, unlike the co-working fabrication spaces I work out of in SoDo industrial district.
Artists Together, Working
Randy McCoy feels strongly that real community is an organically occurring phenomenon. In his opinion, the profound and unique experience of being an artist is shared when artists can get together and make any kind of art. The Building was established for artists, first and foremost, and they will make the community what they want – their respective spaces are private, individual work-only studios. The rest of West Seattle can experience the art of The Building’s artists for themselves at Second Thursday Art Walks through the end of the year – September 12, October 10, November 14 and December 12. There are open studios throughout, nibbles and sips, and even live music, like for this coming Thursday by songwriter Andrew Sherbrooke. As Randy says, the artists are “the gems” that make the Art Walk exist, and have made the vibrant community of art and artists that The Building is.
Interested in renting space at The Building or any of Randy McCoy’s other artist studio spaces? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Building is at 4316 SW Othello St, Seattle, WA 98136.
Read more Business Spotlights on our West Seattle Art Walk blog: Inner Alchemy, The Office of Rebecca Mitsui, Northwest Art & Frame, Wild Rose’s, West Seattle Garden Tour + Capers Home, Canna West Seattle + Culture Shop, West Seattle Art Nest and John L. Scott West Seattle.