How to find free and cheap artist studio space in Brooklyn

You can make great art at Pioneer Works for not so much money.

You can make great art in a place like this for free. Photo via Pioneer Works.

There’s plenty to kvetch about if you’re a self-employed artist living in BK. The most oft-heard complaint is the one about paying for two spaces with one non-salary. On top of struggling to monetize your artistic talents, the Man is expecting you to pay for not one, but two spaces a month?

We know, you tried to find a creative solution. I’ll just live in my workspace! you said. I’ll shower in the slop sink. Then you said OK, I’ll just paint in my living room! The smell of chemicals won’t suffocate my cat! But then it did.

You need a place to work and a place to live. Separately. As with our indispensable Brooklyn coworking guide, we’re happy to do the snooping for you. Here, we present the layman’s guide to scoring cheap studio space in Brooklyn, starting with the very best kind of all: free. 

STUDIO MEMBERSHIPS AND RESIDENCIES
Studio memberships are low commitment, and come with a lot of perks. No one’s really advising you, and you get the space just as long as you’re paying for it. Residencies, on the other hand, are application-based and selectively curated. They’re also occasionally free! But in any case, they’re better suited to emerging or mid-career artists who just need a little more time, space and guidance to keep on keeping on. Some of the opportunities listed below are hybrid versions of the two: they cost money like a membership, but you’re taken care of like a resident.

Artist Josephine Kaeppelin at Pioneer Works. (via Facebook)

Artist Josephine Kaeppelin at Pioneer Works. (via Facebook)

Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook
Type: residency
Cost: FREE
Notable Features: networking and teaching opportunities

Art-scene ignitor Dustin Yellin has created a vibrant artist residency with all of the amenities a budding young creator—or a seasoned one—could dream of: studio visits from curators and critics, teaching opportunities at local schools, periodic exhibitions, and an airy, semi-private workspace in this beautiful building in Red Hook. The residency is for Arts & Sciences, so it isn’t limited to artists! Environmental strategists and urban planners are equally encouraged to apply.

Because we are all this artist hanging her work. via Trestle Gallery FB

Because we are all this artist hanging her work. via Trestle Gallery FB

Trestle Gallery
168 7th Street, Gowanus
Type: residency
Cost: FREE
Notable Features: BAS amenities, community outreach

As we mentioned above, Trestle is an extension of the Brooklyn Art Space. Their residency seeks to bridge the gap between artist and the surrounding community. Aside from the $25 application fee, the Trestle residency provides you with all of the amenities of a BAS semi-private studio membership for free! For 6 months, anyway. As an additional exchange—but also for the sake of community involvement—you’ll be volunteering in the studio four hours per month.

What a factory! Featuring you? via Facebook

Brooklyn Metal Works has quite a factory! Featuring you? via Facebook

Brooklyn Metal Works
640 Dean Street, Clinton Hill
Type: membership
Cost: $50/year, then $320/month for space
Notable features: equipment use, class discounts

Would-be Etsy jewelers, rejoice! Since BK Metal Works is part school and part studio space, you’ll have the benefit of being able to train in your craft while you work. The membership fee is yearly and the rental fees range from hourly to monthly. There’s a $300 security deposit dedicated benches and semi-private spaces. You can also arrange to pay for your space in installments! And the equipment that membership gives you access to is enough to make anybody drool.

SPark Workshop Brooklyn
33 34th Street, Gowanus
Type: membership
Cost: $199/month, $306/month with storage
Notable features: shop access, class discounts

Catered specifically towards woodworkers, SPark has a relatively small roster of member artists — about a dozen or so at a time. You’ll have to bring in your own wood, obviously, but it’s likely you can get scrap from other artists and there’s some pretty great equipment access included with membership: all the saws, a drill press, sanders, and other power tools.

The Gowanus Studio Space
166 7th Street, Gowanus
Type: membership
Cost: $145/month, $205/month with storage
Notable features: no commitment, woodworking, printmaking & metal shop

The GSS has a shop for every medium; it even has a co-working area for you and your laptop. The architecture of the space makes it ideal for artists who want to participate in the Space’s exhibition events. The caveat on their monthly, no-commitment membership is that it starts with a one-time fee of $300. So you’ll probably want to amortize that over at least a year or so.

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Watercolor painting at the Brooklyn Art Space. via Facebook

Watercolor painting at the Brooklyn Art Space. via Facebook

Brooklyn Art Space
168 7th Street, Gowanus
Type: membership
Cost: $180/month, $255/month with storage
Notable features: 24/7 access, kitchen, A/C and wi-fi

Right next door to Gowanus Studio Space, BAS is a better option for the night owls, since it’s open 24/7. They also host Trestle Gallery, which provides residency version of these memberships. In other words, read about that below if you’d rather get all this stuff for free. Pretty standard open concept (pictured above), dedicated desk space for your work, and plenty natural light.

Chashama
Brooklyn Army Terminal, Sunset Park
Type: membership/residency
Cost: $200-$400/month
Notable features: historic building, month-to-month

Chashama is the largest studio residency program in the city, with workspace locations in almost every borough. We’re going to tell you about the one in Brooklyn, for obvious reasons—but also because it happens to be awesome. If accepted, you’ll get to make your art in the same building as Jacques Torres makes his! Nom nom nom. The application is general, but you can indicate your zip-code and budget and they’ll put you as close to your borough/price range as possible.

Brooklyn Brush Studios
203 Harrison Place, Bushwick
Type: membership/residency
Cost: $225/month +
Notable features: 24-hour access, mentorship

BBS has the trappings of a membership ($$), but it functions like a residency: Parenthesis is a structured 6-month membership intended to guide goal-oriented artists through the meaningful development or completion of their project. That includes mentorship opportunities, an exhibition, and more. If you’d prefer just to rent a studio, it’s still pretty cheap there—starting at $295/month.

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It's a massive space for the price. via Two Trees NY

Large, clean & private studio space in DUMBO? Yes please. via Two Trees NY

Two Trees NY
various, DUMBO
Type: group residency
Cost: $700-$2,500/month
Notable features: total privacy, freight, wi-fi

Commercial real estate company Two Trees NY has started offering the “Cultural Space Subsidy Program,” wherein they offer below-market rent prices on commercial leases to groups of artists. Spaces are large office-style and studio-style, in various buildings around DUMBO. Preference will be given to 501(c)3 companies, and artists are encouraged to contribute to the local community via public installation/presentation. You can use the space at subsidized cost for up to 3 years; no renewals. This is definitely too much of a splurge for one person, but a five-person collective or a theater company could make it all worthwhile.


LISTINGS AND DIRECTORIES
So that was a big list, but just like with job-hunting, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled on every website, coffee shop bulletin board and local newspaper out there for cheap individual rentals. Something might even come up in the “housing swap” section on Craigslist, if you want rural peace. Anyway, here’s that list.

NYFA Space Classifieds
A directory with spaces both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Individuals offering studio shares, collectives advertising residencies, and membership-based studios you might not have heard of yet are all on here.

Listings Project, by Stephanie Diamond
A weekly listserv that arrives in your inbox every Wednesday morning circa 9AM—features studios for rent, for share, and for sublet.

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2 Comment

  • I’m looking for a work space/studio to share with other artist/craft person who uses sewing machine or will let me bring mine.

    • Hey Agi,

      Your post is 2 months old, but just incase you haven’t found a space yet, check out Con Artist Collective! 24-hour access to the 3000sqf shared studio, PLUS storage (that would hold your machine) is just $277 a month. There are many other crafts people/artists to connect with. From leather-workers, fashion designers, painters, to conceptual performers, we house and welcome everyone!

      <3 Brandon