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Setting up a Co-op studio


I’m about to make the big leap into the unknown, graduating from my
basement studio to setting up a cooperative studio in a large open
space that’s roughly 20’ x 40’. I will be the landlord and one of
the renters and I am looking for several others to rent the space
with me. I know this is an open ended question, but does anyone have
any advice? Things I should be aware of? Best practices? Things that
worked for you, or didn’t work? Advantages / disadvantages? We will
use the front part of the space as a store-front and the majority of
it as workshop space. Any suggestions gratefully accepted…

Cyd Rowley, Silver Spring MD

I will be the landlord and one of the renters and I am looking for
several others to rent the space with me. I know this is an open
ended question, but does anyone have any advice? Things I should be
aware of? Best practices? Things that worked for you, or didn't
work? Advantages / disadvantages? 

Clear expectations.
Written agreements.
Written, legal leases.
Radios – will everyone like the same station? Will people have
radically different politics and want to listen to talk radio?

Good luck!


Hi Cyd

I could fill pages with things to do, if you want to contact me off
line we can talk more. But to me the main thing is, with a statement
first: getting a group of people to agree on anything is near
impossible, getting a group of artist to agree on anything IS
impossible. So since you are the landlord as you say, it should be
YOUR studio with YOUR rules. It is not a democracy, it is your store.
If you want to paint the walls red you paint the walls red, which by
the way please don’t do. You, the gallery, needs to make a percentage
on all the sales, at least 30% minimum even with them paying rent.

My two cents

Bill Wismar


You may want to check out the website for the National Cooperative
Business Association

I have a pamphlet they published in 1987 called “How to Organize a
Cooperative.” I don’t know if it is still in print. You may be able
to get all of the same from their new website.

Jane E. Shaffer


Hello Cyd,

In 1976-79 I had an artisan co-op in the San Francisco bay area. I
loved it. In that co-op I had jewelry artists, ceramics, sculptors,
glass(stained, carved and hot),fiber and wood workers. When I moved
to Gulfport.Fl I wanted one again but got no takers. This is how I
ran my co-op.

  1. I had working artist in the studio space and in the retail space.
    They didn’t have to be the same ones.The studio artist were given

  2. Depending on the retail space the artist wanted they had to work
    retail hours or hire someone to work to cover the time. The time was
    proportional to the space. They could also cover the retail floor at
    the same time they were working studio space with limitations.

  3. The retail space for non-studio artists was a juried space by the
    board of directors. The board was voluntary for a year term.

4.The terms of studio space and or retail space were contractual,
drawn up by a lawyer wherein were the consequences of non

  1. Shows for participating artist were on a monthly basis drawn from
    a hat with the prior 3 artist were not included, or a vote by all
    participating artists of whom should be showcased.This was a
    consensus decision of all under contract.

  2. Any artist that wanted to leave the co-op had to give 60 days
    notice and give recommendations for replacement artists so we
    maintained a quality or craftsmanship and work ethic. (generally we
    had a waiting list to get into the gallery and or studio space.

  3. The studio space was open to the public to watch artists at work.
    The public space was defined separate from the work space by a glass
    partition for insurance reasons and not to disturb the work in

  4. All artist working the retail space were responsible for
    maintenance of the property interior i.e… cleaning, stocking new
    inventory, stocking gift wraps/boxing,

  5. Bookkeeping was my responsibility and a fee was part of the
    contract for the retail space.

  6. Any artist that worked the retail space didn’t have to pay the
    consignment of 30% to the gallery. (we did have a few artists that
    had no means to work the retail space)

  7. The studio artists paid for the studio space and retail space
    according to space size.

  8. The non-studio juried artists paid according to space size.

  9. Liability, damage/theft insurance and utilities was a
    consideration of payments in the space the artists co-oped.

  10. The studio space had a common area that the artists could do
    classes if so desired with a published schedule of upcoming classes.
    It was the artists responsibility to provide materials, rent the
    time and pay utilities based on what they were doing. i.e. ceramic
    kilns take more energy than fabric weaving.

  11. Great communication was essential with the artists and myself
    i.e. if someone could not do their retail time I had to cover it.
    Generally there were two people to cover the retail space especially
    when the were both studio artists working at the same time the
    covered retail.

  12. I found that the diversity of product made a better retail space
    but made it difficult for studio space. I ended up with more gas or
    hot workers in studio and a greater diversity in retail space which
    made this situation more palatable to all.

  13. The common area had shared equipment for the gas/ hot workers
    and jewelers as well as the classes given, it was centered in the
    studio space.

  14. My intention of the space utilization and me being an architect
    had no bearing on the outcome of actual usage with the artists that
    wanted the studio space and retail space. I had to be a
    contortionist of compromise to get the co-op started.

All-in-all I would do it again in a heart beat if I could find the
artists, space and funding. I have the greatest of memories for that
time, support of endeavors, development and comrodories. In addition
add a web site for better exposure to the retail area, classes and
perspective artists. (1976 there was not the internet access there is

best of luck DO IT