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Meet Michelle Biely of The Creative Center of Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Biely.

Michelle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The concept of the Creative Center started as a “joke”. At the time I was in need of a photography space, I knew someone who was in need of a wood working space, someone else a band practice space, someone who just got out of architectural school and needed something to build, while someone else who was looking for a non-profit to start. I said wouldn’t it be great if we could hire the architect to build the space, put in sound proof studios as well as a place for wood working, I could have a studio and we could make it a non-profit. While that concept was not at all feasible, creating this type of space for artists was. I started looking at the artist community and realized, to me, how unconnected they are. Artists seem to have “secrets” they don’t want other artists knowing and I felt this was a strange thing. Since you can ask 5 painters to paint the same subject, and 5 photographers to photograph the same subject, and 5 sculptures to sculpt the same subject they will all look different. Why can’t they take these things that make them all create the same art differently and admire that about each other and learn from it? I then thought about those people who love to create but don’t feel they have a place they can go and do this. This meant I had to make the space affordable. I want to get creative people out of their kitchens, spare bedrooms, garages, off their dining room tables and bring them together and give them their own community. Give them a place where they can focus strictly on their art and get to know one another. While we do have three private studio spaces that have doors as a whole the center is wide open. This allows our artists to mingle and see what the other is doing.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road was a bit bumpy. We are located in what used to be an old shooting range so some of the construction was tricky. I wanted to preserve as much of the history of the building as I could. Trying to figure out how to bring it up to code without destroying most of it was a process. I spoke with a group of artists one day about the concept for my space. As a whole it was decided a space like this wouldn’t work. Artists needed walls and doors and a way to keep their “secrets” hidden. Some said having others around distracted them. I had to be stubborn and decide if I thought this would be a good idea so would others. I still have people who come into the Center occasionally telling me it still isn’t going to work, even though there are artists working right in front of them. Marketing has been tricky. I still haven’t figured out how you reach the kinds of artists that would want to be in a space like this. A couple blocks north of us is a whole street of art galleries. Getting people to come and check out our artists work has not been an easy thing to do. Our artists do not do the typical southwestern art prominent in our area also there are no co-working artist spaces like ours around here. What we do is very confusing to most people.

The Creative Center of Scottsdale – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Creative Center of Scottsdale is a co-working space for messy artists and creative people. By messy we mean painters, sculptors, mixed media, anything that might get on your hands. Most co-working spaces are for those people who sit at a desk. We do offer a couple desk spaces but mostly we offer 10×10 spaces in our 3,000 square foot area. An artist renting a space is given a 10×10 space on the floor. All of our spaces are indicated by a rug we have down. They are allowed to put whatever they wish in the space and decorate it as they want.

The other day we had a photographer doing a photo shoot right next to her neighbor who was oil painting and sitting at the table we had a gentle man who is trying to set up a bike system for the city. Our artists vary and that’s the great thing about this space.

Right now we are known for what we used to be, the old shooting range. The logo of the range used to hang over the street and became an icon for the area. We have since taken that sign and hung it in our building as well as implemented it to create our own logo. Many people walk by and see the sign. They then come in and tell us stories of how they used to go in the basement and shoot.

I’m proud that we seem to be doing what we set out to do. We are giving those who were looking for a place to create just that. We are giving it to them in a space they love and at a price they can afford. All of our artists get along and that is another wonderful thing as well.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There is a painter out of New York whose work I just love, I saw he was doing a painting workshop within walking distance so I contacted him and asked him to swing by the Center. Having him tell me how much he enjoyed the detail that was paid to the light flow of the space made me proud. If there is anything in this building I stressed about it was the light. My background is photography so I understand how different lights can change the color of things and the last thing painters want is to paint something one color only to take it outside and realize it actually more blue than they saw or more red. I made sure all the light in our building is either natural or white balanced. Coming from him that was a real compliment.

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