Editor’s Note — This is the first article in a monthly series highlighting segments of the 18b Arts District and surrounding arts locations.
For many people, The Arts Factory is the 18b Arts District. The building at 107 E. Charleston Blvd. is on a major thoroughfare, is distinctive and is relatively large .
Owner Wes Myles bought the building in 1992 after operating his photography business there for four years. He gave it its name and started encouraging arts in the building and trying to promote it in the area.
When he purchased it, it was a warehouse. Before that, it had been a print shop for several years . Myles also believes the building got its start as a funeral home.
In contrast, the building is now one of the most lively places in the Arts District, with activities taking place regularly. It has gone through many changes over the years, in tenancy and layout.
“My husband Pete calls it the Lego Building,” said Marty Walsh, owner of the Trifecta Gallery. “It’s amazing how walls get moved, doorways get added and staircases are put in.”
The changes have enhanced movement through the building . Earlier incarnations of The Arts Factory required patrons to exit to access the second floor.
The Trifecta Gallery is one of the building’s most visible and active tenants. The gallery is open seven days a week and usually hosts two shows, one in the main gallery and a second in a space that Walsh dubbed the Attachment Room.
Walsh came to The Arts Factory as an artist and segued into her role as gallery owner a decade ago. She runs the gallery as a business, selecting works aimed at drawing buyers.
“I don’t get people who have a gallery and don’t keep open regular business hours and keep a website current,” Walsh said. “People aren’t going to keep coming back if they don’t know if a place is going to be open or not.”
The Contemporary Arts Center is another long-term tenant and major force in the Arts District. The non profit gallery moved to The Arts Factory in 1996 from Temporary Contemporary on the corner of Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway. The center is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
“It’s had pretty strong programming over the years,” said Joanne Russ, who took over as gallery coordinator three months ago. “I think the intention was to do something that was a little bit different than what was then being shown. I think it’s something the CAC intends to continue with by showing local and international artists.”
The CAC is capable of being divided into three spaces and usually hosts at least two shows simultaneously. A new show is usually scheduled to open on Preview Thursday, the day before First Friday, in one of the smaller galleries. Larger shows are often scheduled to open the week after First Friday.
“We’re trying to bring people down for other weeks for events,” Russ said. “We want people to know it isn’t all about one day each month.”
A wide assortment of tenants have called The Arts Factory home. Many architects, law offices and designers have shared the building with galleries and arts-related businesses.
“It’s a good mix now with all the businesses here being galleries or at last very artsy or having an arts vibe,” Walsh said. “When the economy started going bad, we had some businesses in here that didn’t make sense to me, but it’s turned around.”
The Arts Factory is also home to the Bar+Bistro, which draws artists, movers and shakers of the Arts District, professionals, downtown residents and others. The outdoor patio is home to weekly art and performance events on Saturday nights and special events throughout the year.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.