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August 28, 2017

Portland artist crowdfunds new studio and teaching space

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Portland artist Adria Moynihan Rusk will soon realize her dream of opening her own studio, thanks in part to a crowdfunding campaign.

After two years of planning, Portland artist Adria Moynihan Rusk will soon realize her dream of opening her own studio.

The 38-year-old, previously at Portland's Running with Scissors artists' collective headed by Kate Anker, will hang out her shingle in late September in a leased space she plans to share with two others.

Doing business as Still Life Studio, Rusk describes her work as based on realism with a "fair amount of abstraction."

Rusk is leasing 1,400 square feet at 82 Elm St. in Portland's West Bayside neighborhood for three years with an option to renew. Not wanting to take on large debt, she is financing the venture from a mix of savings and an IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $9,500 so far from 76 backers towards her $12,500 flexible goal.

"I've had so much support," she told Mainebiz, surrounded by paint buckets, a ladder and a congratulatory floral bouquet from her mother in the room where she plans to give lessons.

Uncomfortable at first asking people for money, Rusk has come to view crowdfunding as a positive way to get the community involved: "What has come from it is that people are really invested in the success of the space and they're sharing with it with their friends."

Friends and community volunteers also became involved in a hands-on way by helping with tasks such as painting, ripping out carpets and patching holes — "anything a professional wasn't required to do," as Rusk puts it. "I feel very grateful."

Mentored by SCORE

She is equally grateful for the free coaching she's received from Susan deGrandpre with SCORE, the U.S Small Business Administration's nonprofit mentoring service for small businesses.

DeGrandpre, owner of a company called Collaboration Consulting, said during the two years she has worked with Rusk she has seen her evolve from shy artist to confident businesswoman.

"She came in with a dream … and was at first a little bit shy about talking about it," deGrandpre said. "Now she is just so good at letting people know what she is doing and the importance of it … She's gone from that shyness to recognizing that she is really giving a gift to the community."

The 'gift' will be three new art studios in a city where affordable creative space can be hard to come by. Rusk has already found a silkscreen artist to rent one of studio rooms as she seeks another tenant to join them. While it needn't be an artist per se, she would prefer someone in a creative field.

Both tenants will have use of the teaching room at a discount.

Besides the support from SCORE, Rusk received valuable feedback from other women business owners through a series of FocusME peer groups organized by SCORE and The Women's Business Center at Coastal Enterprises Inc. Rusk said the women act as sounding boards for each other and they plan to stay in touch through bi-monthly check-ins.

"It's nice because you get to know these women and their businesses and are invested in their success, too," she said.

The new Still Life Studio won't be a public gallery but open only by appointment or for those taking private lessons or classes with Rusk. She teaches mostly adults and some teens and hopes to restart in October.

"I have private students who have been waiting," she said. "They're eager to get started again and so am I."

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