Sidebar: Information: Zero Empty Spaces Studio
Where: Rosemary Square, 1454 Boulevard of the Arts
Hours: 12 to 5 p.m. Monday to Sunday
Story++Lori Stone has been making fabric art for decades.
The retired Sarasota resident has taught art for years and worked as an interior designer, all while gathering fabrics and materials to make her own art pieces.
Stone makes colorful abstract designs and esoteric figures out of fabric, felt and textures all of which come from her heart. But she’s never once has she felt like she’s been making art for other people.
“This has always been for me,” Stone said.
For the first time in a lifetime of creativity, that’s changed. Stone now displays her work at the Zero Empty Spaces art studio and gallery in the Rosemary District.
The studio, which opened in early August, is the latest in a series across Florida that rents vacant properties at low rates to emerging artists to create and display art.
“A lot of (affordable artist) spaces are nonprofit-based or heavily juried,” Zero Empty Spaces co-founder Evan Snow said. “They generally favor artists that are more experienced … we’re glad to reward artists who are early on in their careers.”
As opposed to showing her textured creations to her close friends, Stone now enjoys seeing new faces respond to her work.
“It’s so interesting what pieces (people here) go to,” she said.
Around 11 artists work in their personal sections of the studio in what has become a sort of makeshift collective.
There’s a sense of belonging that’s undeniable, and not just for Stone. Many of the studio’s artistic inhabitants agree — there’s a crackling energy to the space, a palpable feeling of community and life many haven’t felt since their time in art school.
Elizabeth Goodwill, a fiber and sculpture artist, has been making fine craft installations for much of her career. When she’s not working as the education director with Art Center Sarasota, she’s learning more about the base elements and construction of fine art crafts and creating multi-layered animal masks as an expression of identity.
That art takes time. Goodwill starts by forming wire armatures that she then overlays with the “musculature” materials and finally covers the construct in leather.
Working in an administrative role at the art center through a pandemic has taken Goodwill further and further away from making those pieces. She says one day she woke up and she hadn’t made new artwork in a year — it felt like a blow to her system.
She’s found her creativity again at the studio where she makes new structures and installations every weekend. Goodwill’s space is right next to Stone’s and the two talk about their art constructs and bounce ideas off one another.
The artist jokes that she spends all day at her job telling people to make art to better their mindsets and that she’s finally taking her own advice.
“Being in this group is the same feeling as I had in grad school,” Goodwill said. “We all have our studio spaces but as one big group. Everyone’s doors are open … it’s that energy that’s amazing.”
Painter Craig Palmer says the studio’s energy has revitalized his output and feelings as an artist.
The New York-turned-Sarasota resident has long focused on realism — he specialized in detail-oriented, accurate paintings of humans and animals.
He enjoyed it and was good at it, but admits the technical focus and reliance on model painting stifled his feeling of being a true artist.
Palmer often wished to start painting abstract figures — a completely different focus and perspective from what he’d spent his life doing.
Upon joining the studio, he’s done just that. Palmer now spends his days painting abstract designs with acrylic paint that have influences in nature and evoke landscapes like the Colorado mountains. He says the change broke his brain at first but eventually he pulled back and applied the fundamentals of painting to different shapes.
What’s kept him going strong is the feeling he’s had creating art with fellow artists again, and seeing locals come in to admire and purchase their creations. He says he’s been making work he’s proud of more consistently than ever, and he has no plans for stopping now.
“It’s such a great opportunity for artists, there are no affordable studio spaces in Sarasota,” Palmer said. “To be able to come in and share (with everyone). Everybody is different, the work is different … but the energy is like being back in art school. It’s a really great vibe.”