The Artist Moving, Constantly
By Tom Burton
The doorbell is broken. If you tap loud enough on the dirty glass on the front door, someone inside might hear you. They'll come out, flip the deadbolt and lead you past the strange junk collages on display and direct you to steer clear of mousetraps on the floor.
As old warehouses go, this building on Orlando's Mcrae Avenue is not unusual. It has unfinished walls and concrete floors and is showing its age. It's the kind of place most people would be anxious to leave, but the tenants here were worried when they were told they'd have to move.
``There was a panic. We were really scared,'' says painter Rima Jabbur. She's the one who organized seven artists several years ago to lease the building. Recently Florida Hospital, the owner, told them it was planning to renovate the building for its own use.
Industrial buildings like this one are perfect spaces for artists' studios. They typically have large, open spaces and high ceilings, allowing room to work on large canvases or sculptures. And the rent is less than residential or office leases.
The best buildings have industrial sinks for washing brushes. They have loading docks for moving out large pieces and, if you're lucky, skylights that flood the room with natural light. But they don't have carpet or fancy paneling.
``You don't have to worry about keeping them clean,'' says Jabbur.
Compared with cities in the Northeast, Orlando has very few industrial sites. There is not an old warehouse district with empty buildings, and as the arts community grows, demand for the limited space increases. Several studios, including the Mcrae on the Lake Artists Studios, have started in the area east of Lake Ivanhoe but could be in jeopardy if the property becomes attractive for development.
Jabbur is happy this week because she has found another warehouse just down the street on Alden Road that will be available in June. She is on the phone, talking with landlords about leases and with artists inquiring about joining the group at the new, larger space. The new studio has skylights.
This story originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel.