Two writers occupy their own desks in a modestly sized room in a second-story apartment above a Taekwondo studio on the North Side of Milwaukee. In a room on the other side of the apartment are two visual artists, and in two other rooms are an aspiring fashion designer and a photographer.
Each of them is an artist-in-residence at Blank Space Milwaukee, a new urban art cooperative at 9224 W. Burleigh Ave. that offers a space for artists to hone their skills and learn how to invest in themselves and their dreams. Two of the residents, Symphony Swan and Bridget Robinson, said they created Blank Space last February after struggling to find low-cost studio space close to their work and homes.
“My dad always told me that I’m responsible for accomplishing my goals,” Swan said. “He always instilled in me the desire to go after something you want instead of waiting for someone to give it to you — so that’s what Blank Space is.”
Robinson and Swan have full-time jobs in addition to their creative and administrative work at Blank Space. Swan is an art teacher at Milwaukee College Prep; Robinson a human resource director for a social service agency in the city.
The shared space makes the juggling possible. “The fact that it’s a cooperative makes it easier to handle on top of all our other work,” Robinson said. “Everyone pitches in, even with website design and our social media accounts. It’s a team effort.”
The cooperative offers classes in topics such as personal branding, networking and how to use social media effectively.
“We’ve found that a lot of artists want to invest in themselves, but they’re unsure of where to start,” Robinson said.
Blank Space’s residents work on their own artistic projects. Writer Regina Cooper has used her roughly three months at the cooperative to finish a novel, begin to build a business and develop a writers’ workshop.
“Without this space, I would have never gotten all of these things done,” Cooper said. “Blank Space has given me the time and the focus to accomplish so many things in such a short amount of time.”
Blank Space also rents its gallery to community members for shows. Michael Kochanski, a senior at Wauwatosa West High School, recently presented his photography there. Kochanski heard about the gallery from his mother, a friend of Swan and Robinson.
“I really appreciated being able to showcase my photos in a space like this,” he said. “I’ve never done this before, so it was nice having someone who has done this before show me the do’s and don’ts of an art gallery show.”
Blank Space’s most recent exhibit — “She. Creates.” — focused on female empowerment and collaboration and featured the work and talents of local female artists.
“The gallery wasn’t intended to focus so heavily on female empowerment, but it just ended up that so many like-minded people were able to come together for this project,” Swan said.
While the current occupants are all women, Blank Space is open to anyone wanting to take the next step with his or her goals, the founders said. Community members interested in renting space should contact Robinson and Swan at email@example.com.
“If someone has a dream they need help achieving, we want to be a resource for them.” Robinson said.