Midway through their Fall 2012 semester, GMU Arts Management classmates Sarah Cofﬁn, Christine Bauer, Henri Bielawski discovered they shared a similar dilemma: the struggle to find a balance between their artistic inclinations and management pursuits. Although they were dedicated to learning the skills to become future art administrators, there was a moment of truth where they felt their own personal artistic expressions were becoming increasingly neglected. Soon thereafter, something unexpected happened…
Sarah’s cousins, who currently live in Africa, had just purchased a small bungalow in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA, and asked if she would consider house sitting until they relocated to the States later in the summer. To sweeten the deal, they agreed to allow Sarah to host artistic gatherings there. It was an idea Sarah had to offer like-minded individuals, who longed to engage in communal creative activity, a place to share and to experience the artistic process with others.
When Sarah originally applied to GMU’s Arts Management program, she wrote in her personal statement that it was her goal to create an artistic community oriented around opening one’s senses to experience the world. Suddenly, the circumstances were in place to put her ambition to practice and to apply her learning in a real-world situation while still working towards her degree. Upon hearing about the proposal, Professor Claire Huschle encouraged Sarah to pursue the project as an independent study, and The Empty House Studio (TEHS) was born.
Sarah, along with Christine and Henri, began work on the TEHS’ mission statement and quickly launched both a blog site and Facebook page. Within a relatively short time they had one hundred “Likes”; an amount which has more than doubled as word spread beyond their immediate circle of friends. Beginning in mid-December, TEHS hosted its first of many on-going weekly events. While some of these gatherings have been based on a theme, such as culinary creations or salsa dance, many are unstructured and simply encourage people to show up and be open to new experiences.
During these happenings a trained musician might find new inspiration by experimenting with painting, or a writer might try collage to stimulate a new story idea. The nurturing environment cultivated by TEHS has become a conduit for creativity in all forms, and one feels the palpable energy as a buzz of activity fills the rooms. Many who come for the first time return again as regulars, and each subsequent gathering presents a new opportunity for someone else to join and connect.
This coming June, TEHS will vacate its Del Ray address as Sarah’s relatives return to the US. What happens next has yet to be determined. Whether moving on to inhabit a new physical location, or perhaps, instead, becoming a framework for alternative creative endeavors, TEHS has already instilled in many the spirit of being in of the moment. The message is clear: for those interested in sharing a creative experience with others, now is the time!