A communal studio for sculptors for almost half a century

David Seccombe in Westbeth Sculpture Studio photo by Shelly Seccombe


Since the inception of the historic transformation of the Bell Labs Building into Westbeth in 1970, the Sculpture Studio has been essential to the mission of affordable housing by providing for a communal studio space for artists.

In every original document pertaining to the mission of the Westbeth, the phrase “and communal studios” was stated. In the case of the Sculpture Studio, they go further to specifically designate the basement as a location for this particular communal space.

The basement space was designated because of the founders’ understanding of the needs in creating sculpture – both to size and use of materials – that cannot be worked with or applied in a home environment.

Recently the Board of Directors made a decision to ban the use of our communal basement Sculpture Studio by the artist-residents of Westbeth. This decision was made suddenly after more than a year of requests by sculptors to discuss the matter of when they would be able to return to the space after Super Storm Sandy. After months and months of being told to be patient, and that things were being worked out, the decision to ban the studio was made without notice and without any input from the artists affected.

This was a brutal blow. We do not understand how or why Super Storm Sandy translated into the loss of our work space, especially since a letter from the President of the Board dated Dec 2013, and distributed building wide, stated “insurance proceeds have covered most of the hurricane damage, and rising commerical rents have helped us. We are responsible for ensuring that Westbeth fulfills its mission of providing affordable housing and workspace for working artists.

The sculptors request a forum with the entire Board of Directors to discuss the communal studio. The Suclpture Studio has been for almost half a century one of the cornerstones of our community. The Sculpture Studio need not be sacrificed.

Photos of Sculpture Studio

Sculpture Studio Entrance

Sculpture Studio work area

Jon Bauch in Sculpture Studio

Karen Santry with Kaubik Sculptures in Sculpture Studio

Pipe Cutter / Bender in Sculpture Studio

Christina Maile working in Sculpture Studio

Charlie Seplowin working in Sculpture Studio

Jan Harding in Sculpture Studio

Metal working area in Sculpture Studio

Wood working area in Sculpture Studio

Sculpture Gallery

The Sculpture Gallery, sponsored and maintained by the sculptors of the Sculpture Studio featured the work of Westbeth and visiting sculptors.

Westbeth Sculpture Galleries at Inner Courtyard. Far right gallery has winch to lower large materials to Sculpture Studio just below.

Ken Wade of Sculpture Studio exhibits in Sculpture Gallery

Curatorial Visits and Interns

The Sculpture Studio was large enough to have students assist in making of pieces, as well as host visiting curators, tours, and potential buyers. A large part of the sculptors’ artistic income was generated by their ability to work peacefully using the materials, methods and means of their craft.

Karen Santry student

Jan Harding Puppets in Sculpture Studio Tour

Super Storm Sandy Damage

Nine feet of water covered the entire Sculpture Studio. Even after the water had subsided, we were not allowed in for days to rescue our work. Once we began the rescue, many sculptors were distraught by the loss of years of work. Others face mounting expenses in restoration attempts. Even now, many of the sculptors remain distraught as they no longer have a place to practice their art.

Super Storm Sandy Damage to Sculpture Studio

Sculptors removing damaged work.

Examples of Work created in the Sculpture Studio

Over its more than 40 year presence, the sculptors of the Sculpture Studio produced a variety of work in different media. Sculptors like Carol Bayard, John Manship, and others plied their craft here, and no one thought, until recently, to keep records and take photos of their presence.

The studio was a place to work.

RALPH MARTEL Heading There Wood

AL COOKE Horizontal metal and wire

DOLLY UNITHAN Birdman wood , cloth, cord.

JON BAUCH Alone Together Metal

TOM DUNCAN Triptych wood and misc materials

CHRISTINA MAILE Elegy for Gladys wood, monoprints

CHARLIE SEPLOWIN For my Son resin and metal

KAREN SANTRY Orange Chanel wood, paint

JAN HARDING Puppets assorted materials

KEN WADE Untitled resin

DAVID SECCOMBE Sculptures created in Sculpture Studio wood, metal.

More Information

New York Times article on loss of Sculpture Studio : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/nyregion/storm-damaged-their-art-now-it-may-take-their-studio-space.html

Contact Jan Harding for documentation, artists’statements re loss of studio, etc

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