Wednesdays with Myron – Barnstone Studios (1982-2014), Part I
Eventually, as students of all ages continued to find out about Barnstone Studios and clamor for classes, I outgrew that downtown Allentown location. I started looking for a larger space with great natural light.
After an extensive search, I discovered a four-story warehouse in nearby Coplay, Pennsylvania. The top two floors were empty, and both boasted an open 5,000-square-foot space with 13-foot-high ceilings and plenty of windows to let in streams of natural light. It was cheap — dirt-cheap – because the single elevator wasn’t available to clients. It was solely a freight elevator. Nobody wanted the third and fourth floor for anything. The landlord was thrilled to get me, and God bless him, he redid the whole thing in fresh white paint. He ground down the shellacked wood floors and finished them with polyurethane. The space looked like some great loft in Paris. They didn’t charge me for any of the work because they were so happy to rent the space, and were flattered there was going to be an art school there.
Many of my students had studied art all their life. Most people came to me because they were frustrated with the inadequacy of their art education. They knew when they looked at master art, whether modern, contemporary or ancient, those artists knew more than they had been taught. They were frustrated.
Barnstone Studios was in the new location for 30 years. I had lecture rooms. I had back screen projection. I could overdraw with magic markers and use dry erase. I could eliminate the image being projected so students saw my overdrawing alone, and then bring back the image. I had blackboards. I had white boards. Visitors walked in and didn’t believe it. I had a huge life class that could accommodate 35 students.
There were pillars every 12 feet all along the center of the building. Between those pillars I put lightweight Styrofoam walls in metal frames on hinges. I could close the walls for individual studio spaces and when I did, they were no wider than a post. I could open up the lightweight walls for big lectures in the open huge space. That gave me a lecture room large enough accommodate 40 people.
The fourth floor of this wonderful new space had sleeping rooms for students who were going to temporarily live there. Illegally, I might add. But the police department shrugged. I had been there for years, and none of students had been involved in anything that warranted police attention. My students were buying at the local shops and eating at the local restaurants, so they were good for the economy. We were right across the street from a large supermarket, so we had endless parking space. There was never any trouble because my students would park their cars, take their course, buy their groceries and get back in their cars and drive out. What’s to complain about? I never had more than 20 students in any one class so it never interfered with their vast parking lot.
When you walked into that studio, you left America. You were in Paris or Russia or Germany during the heyday of the Bauhaus. It was like the atelier system that was standard for classical European artists from the middle ages to the 19th century, where students and apprentices worked with a principle master to learn their craft. You were in a living, breathing, artistic culture. The work was so good and so pristine. Everyone was so focused. There wasn’t any gum chewing or babble or snickering.