First Impressions - making contact with new space

POSTED ON: December 13, 2016


A mentor from graduate school once mentioned the significance of the first piece created in a new studio space.  Whenever entering a new studio environment, this notion always permeates my thoughts.  If I were J.K Rowling I may describe this as an invisible energy which lay dormant, inside the cracks of the floors and the corners of the walls, until the artist makes contact with the room, and by some magic, cloaked from my understanding, inspiration is sparked, cascading vision and genius into the artist…But that’s not how it happens, at least not for me.

As myself and the other Artists in Residence for the Cooper Union Outreach Program were selecting our studio spaces, the Director, Stephanie Hightower, coincidentally touched upon the importance of connecting to one’s space.  All of the studios are sundrenched with skylights capturing as much northern light as physically possible amongst a canopy of skyscrapers.  Although I could always use more Vitamin D, it’s the three unique arched windows in the upper corner of the back studio that I was drawn to.  This triptych, of Romanesque windows, seemed pointless against the magnificence of the skylights.   What was their purpose?  Why did I find them charming? Was I drawn to their repetition, their peculiar location, or was it the view that attracted me: an iconic giant clock mounted to a monumentally painted musical note orienting one to the Carl Fischer Building.

Like these windows, I asked myself, what was my purpose in this space.  I would be here for one month with a 2 week exhibition to follow.  This space would serve as my creative space: my studio.  It would serve as a space to host studio visits; I would later invite curators, writers, academics, artists and friends. It was a learning environment where students could observe and question me and the other residents about our studio practice. It was a space I was grateful to be in.  A place for innovation, exploration, making connections and asking questions.

So, what was the purpose for those three small windows?  What is their story? Maybe there is more then one answer.  


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.