5 Artists Share the Former Lives of Their Studios, From a Chicago Pipe Organ Factory to a U.S. Airforce Base

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, Ania Hobson, and others share the unique histories of their studio spaces.

Courtesy of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum.

Artist’s studios are their sanctuaries, laboratories, libraries, workspaces, and so much more. And while we here at Artnet News love to celebrate the stories of artists themselves, on occasion, a studio a unique history of its own that imbues the space with an alluring sense of heritage. From the dozens of Studio Visits we’ve done over the past year, there are a few we’re still thinking about. Read on below to learn about the amazing tales they’d tell if these studio walls could talk.

Ania Hobson’s Studio in a Former U.S. Airforce Base (With UFO Sightings!) 

Ania Hobson, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

Ania Hobson, 2023. Courtesy of the artist.

My studio is based on an old American airbase [in Suffolk, England] that was famous for its UFO sighting back in 1980. I have been in this studio for six years. I love my space—it’s open, light, and quite spacious with natural lighting dropping from the ceiling, which is exactly what I need as a painter. The space has a warm, relaxed feel, bearing in mind it’s the old interrogation space, with a two-way mirror. 

 

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s 15th-Century Space in the Hague

Courtesy of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum.

Courtesy of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum.

“My studio is located in the Spaansche Hof, a mixed-use building quite close to the city center in The Hague. It was built as a city palace in the late 1400s and mainly served as the Spanish Embassy until the mid-1600s. From the outside, it is quite baroque, with a very tall arched entrance and an interior courtyard garden. My studio is in the very upper part of the main building where ancient wooden support and roof beams are prominent features. There are two large skylights in the ceiling making it a very good space for drawing and painting. It is located next to a 600-year-old church with a carillon of 67 bells that chime short and long compositions that punctuate my working day every quarter hour.

 

Soumya Netrabile’s Chicago Studio in a Former Musical Instrument Factory

Soumya Netrabile in her studio, 2023. Photo: Robert Chase Heishman.

Soumya Netrabile in her studio, 2023. Photo: Robert Chase Heishman.

“My studio is in the old Hammond Organ Company plant in Chicago. The building has been fully rehabbed into multi-disciplinary makers’ space with all sorts of businesses: an event photographer, a candle-maker, a rooftop gardener, to name a few. Right now, I’m the only painter in the building. The eclectic mix of energy is nice. But this isn’t the only place I make work; I also make work at home and a community ceramics studio near my home.”

 

Nari Ward’s Harlem Firehouse 

Artist Nari Ward shot in his Harlem studio for Lehmann Maupin.

Artist Nari Ward shot in his Harlem studio for Lehmann Maupin.

“My studio is in a former firehouse in Harlem. I found it in the ’90s when I was looking for a space to show my installation work for an exhibition I was working on for The Studio Museum called Amazing Grace. Initially, I was looking for a church, but I couldn’t find any abandoned churches. Somebody told me about this old firehouse, and I was able to get in touch with the owner. They happened to be art collectors, and they were amicable to the proposition of me using the space.”

 

Rose B. Simpson’s Egg-Shaped Abode Studio 

Courtesy of Rose B. Simpson.

Courtesy of Rose B. Simpson.

“For the past 12 years, I have been working in the studio that my great-uncle Michael Naranjo built for himself, in San Pedro; the checker-boarded edge of Santa Clara Pueblo tribal reservation that borders the town of Española, New Mexico. My great-uncle built the big adobe house for his family in the 1980s and built himself a tall round-walled studio on the morning sun side of the house. My uncle was blinded in the Vietnam War and became an incredible artist upon his return. His studio didn’t initially need any light fixtures, so when I moved in, I ran an extension cord up to a track mounted on one of the vigas (the wooden beams in adobe homes) on the ceiling, where I have mounted lights. I turn on the lights from where the extension cord plugs into the wall. 

Looking at the shape of the floor, it is clear the room is actually egg-shaped (13 by 18 feet). This is where I have built almost all of my clay sculptures for the past decade. I used to store my kiln in there as well, but now my mom helped me move her big front-loading electric kiln to a space outside under the covered porch. There is a small room tacked to the rear of it where I have fabric and leather and all ten of my sewing machines. I call this cluttered and disorganized space my “Clean Room.” A few years after I started sharing the studio, I walled in the double carport and this is now my car shop and metal fabrication space.”

 

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