4th culture studios brainchild of painter/professional



Benjamin Duke had just finished undergrad when he landed a spot at Poor Yorick, an artist’s space in Salt Lake City run by Brad Slaugh. “I got absorbed into this wonderful community,” said Duke. “The people were focused on creating new work. There was a constant creative energy, a sense of accountability. We regularly had Open Studios where artists welcomed the public into their studio space. Sometimes we had as many as 300 or more people coming through.” Duke’s experience at Poor Yorick provided the vision for 4th Culture Studios.
Benjamin Duke“First you have culture, and then comes counter culture, then the reactionaries, and then there’s us.” That’s how Duke explains the meaning behind 4th Culture Studios. “It also relates to the concept of third culture kids,” said Duke, “someone who has a parent from one culture, another parent from a different culture and he or she lives in a third culture. The kids end up having all of these tendrils into all these points of reference.”

Duke, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Art History, arrived at MSU six years ago. “I thought ‘the community’ would spontaneously arise,” he said. He soon realized it would take some effort on his part to get it going. For Duke it all started with the right space. “I’d been in other studios, but it felt like I was working in isolation. I like having other artists close at hand. It’s important for me to share resources and ideas.” He eventually found what he was looking for in the John Bean Building in Lansing. Duke describes the warehouse space as raw. “I wanted something big and flexible and the owner of the warehouse was willing to work with me. He didn’t care if I got paint on the floor.”

Duke got the space almost two years ago. “It was just me for the first year and a half,” he said. Then in September of 2011, he made a push for artists. “We now have a broad mix of artists and the space accommodates each one of them.” The goal was to create a space that was communal enough to create what Duke calls art energy. It’s an energy one can palpate when you visit the 4th Culture studios of painter Stephanie Palagyi from Montana, multi-medium artist Marissa Tawney Thaler from Grand Rapids and Shontae Collins from Detroit who uses reclaimed materials in her work.

“We’re not sure what it will become,” said Duke. “It’s a definite leap into the unknown. The character of the space is still forming. It can become whatever people want to make it. We’re relying on each other to create the space.” They had their first Open Studio in October of last year with another one planned for this spring. “It’s a great opportunity to allow the broader community to share our experience,” said Duke.

According to his artist statement Benjamin Duke has a unique approach to gaining inspiration for his paintings. For Duke, art is a lot about trying to understand his experience of the world. “It happens through reading and looking at works of art and the simple experience of living,” said Duke. “That’s what creates my images. I often end up working in a series. When an idea captures me I run with it. The making of the work is richest when I’m not exactly sure what I’m making.” That, in many ways, describes Duke’s vision for 4th Culture Studios.

Duke uses the metaphor of flow in describing how he hopes the space and an art energy can continue to evolve. “Like flowing water, it can leak into cracks and open things up, And like water, if the work keeps coming, it also has the power to break loose solidified ideas, shift the energy.”

“We want to create something that’s vibrant and resonates,” said Duke. “People want to be around people who have that.” If the universal law of likes attracting likes holds true, no doubt the energy flowing from 4th Culture Studios has the power to transform a city.

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