My son mentioned to me yesterday that he thought my first studio outside our home was in Colorado where I gave massages and made art. However, my first studio was on Southside in Birmingham, Alabama in the mid eighties.
By that time I had already completed my Associate in Arts at the community college near my parents home. I was working for Cobb Gallery and attending the University of Alabama in B'ham. I had the good fortune to study painting with Edith Frohock, a fine artist in her own right, whose teaching style encouraged students to experiment, explore styles, and to learn about painting by painting.
By working at Cobb Gallery, I was meeting artists and learning from them about being an artist. Maud Coirier Belser, Leah Webb, Arthur Price, John Pleasant, as well as Hank Cobb were encouraging and influential not so much by their style of work but their way of being, their seriousness and joy about what they were doing. With that education available for free, and the mindset of learning by doing, I felt I could get a studio for far less than the cost of classes at UAB. So I did, and dropped out of college with a love for art history (especially abstract expressionism) and a desire to paint.
Below the one bedroom apartment that I shared with my actor boyfriend, Walter Harrison (who later became my first husband and father of my children), was a little studio apartment. It was in poor shape and had been vacant for the whole time we had lived there. So I asked my landlord to rent it to me without making any repairs for $50 a month and they did! It was small but big enough, the bathroom didn't work but there was a kitchen sink, paint was peeling off the walls but they were covered with artwork and the floor was dreadful so I didn't have to worry about drips. It was perfect!
The building was old and had marvelous character. The backside of the building was underground and although my studio was on street level and had full size windows on one side, it was still kind of in the basement. The main part of the old brick apartment house was above. There were three sections to the building and I lived in the middle section to the right. Even though my studio was directly below my apartment, I had to go outside the building, down the entry stairs around the brick stairwell through archways and underneath the stairwell to my studio.