One student was so grateful for the new campus art space that he crocheted a small red hat as a kind of thank you gift. The 3D printed dog created to wear the hat has become both decoration and guardian, watching over the space that Emory students wanted for years and finally got.
When Rizky Etika (20C) was a student at Emory, she and other student artists desired a dedicated visual arts space on campus. That dream became a reality when Emory’s ArtsLab opened its doors in autumn 2021.
“I found I had difficulty accessing the arts on campus,” Etika said. “I’d have to Uber to an art store and pay for all the supplies out of my own pocket, so a space like this would have been a dream come true for me.”
Nestled in the back corner of the Cox Computing Lab, ArtsLab provides a physical space for students to access visual arts. Unlike the Visual Arts Building, which is restricted to visual arts students or those pursuing the Integrated Visual Arts Co-major (IVAC), ArtsLab is a dedicated space open to all students. Across the hall from ArtsLab, Emory’s TechLab provided a model for distributing consumables such as 3D printing supplies, a laser cutter, and soldering equipment not typically accessible to college students. Like TechLab, ArtsLab makes materials available for free and sells them at a subsidized price.
“I liked how they rented out certain tools and sold some things that cost something so it was really accessible to students financially and physically,” Etika said.
ArtsLab offers free resources for students such as brushes, charcoal, erasers and textiles. It also sells materials like paint, vinyl, and sticker paper at a discounted price. In addition, the center has a stamping service, a decal maker, and tools for jewelry and leather making. Two doodles, Electronic cutting machines are also available in conjunction with TechLab that can cut designs in materials such as vinyl or cardstock.
ArtsLab hosts a variety of events ranging from community-wide “sip and paint” to events with clubs such as: B. Sticker making with Complex Residence Hall or light painting with Photo Club Emory.
After graduating from Emory, Etika became a Rosemary McGee Arts Fellow, a one- to two-year post-baccalaureate program for recent graduates. The position gave her the backing to found ArtsLab.
With the aim of creating a space that meets the artistic needs of the students, she interviewed around 200 students. The interviews provided a basis for the materials ArtsLab provided in the fall, such as charcoal and different types of paint. Etika also reached out to peer institutions outside of Emory to learn more about their art spaces, and prepared a budget with a detailed inventory down to the cost of each brush.
In May 2021, Emory Arts allocated a classroom in Cox Hall as the space for the new visual arts space. The university remodeled the space to fit the center’s exact purpose by installing a sink, tearing down a wall, and ripping up a carpet.
“All of this happened over two months over the summer, so finding this partnership was really exciting,” said Maggie Beker, student engagement project coordinator at Emory Arts.
The ArtsLab held its grand opening on September 7, 2021. Since then, the room has received more supplies and accessories to fill the shelves and the walls have bloomed with student art.
“We have been very careful to listen to the students and we intend to continue to do so,” said Beker. “If students are… interested in what they can do in this space and what this space could become with their input, that’s what we want to hear.”
Since its inception, Artslab has quickly become an integral part of the Emory community.
“When we opened, a student was so grateful that she made us a little hat, so I 3D printed a dog at TechLab, drew him here, and now this is our little guardian,” Etika said.
In addition to providing materials for individual artists, the lab provides student groups with materials free of charge to encourage creativity.
“On an event night, people don’t incur any costs to create it, which is a nice, hassle-free experience,” Beker said.
One of the ArtsLab’s most popular events this year was the Paint and Pinot event, where students had access to free drinks and art supplies.
“At the painting and pinot event, almost all the wine cases were full. People were just so engrossed, people were sitting on the floor, they were just painting and not drinking,” said Beker. “We thought the draw would be the food and drink, but the draw was the art.”
The project has also helped university students to start their own artistic projects. Cara Clements (22C) runs her business, Cara Mak designusing ArtsLab materials and resources.
Clements started the lifestyle boutique and design company as a hobby during quarantine to focus on creating women’s clothing and accessories. ArtsLab allows her to continue her business through her website and Etsy by Emory.
Clements, who sells wholesale stickers through her shop, often uses Artslab’s T-shirt press and sewing machines for her apparel collections. She said the center is a great resource because it offers “great accessibility for students, especially students like me, who own businesses that don’t have the space in their own rooms to have equipment or other resources.”
After visiting ArtsLab during its opening, Clements became a regular, visiting the center every other day.
“So many people on the Emory campus are incredibly creative in so many ways, and [ArtsLab] gives students the ability to access the resources to further nurture those passions and continue to learn new skills related to creativity,” said Clements.
Future initiatives at the ArtsLab include expanding into other mediums such as 3D work – including hand building and modeling – as well as raising awareness of the arts for all students.
“I’m also hoping to get into more casual art classes here, where we can invite a professional artist and a local artist to maybe teach how to draw or paint,” Etika said. “Simple things that are less intimidating and perhaps more accessible to students.”
Although ArtsLab didn’t show up in time for students while Etika was in Emory, future students will have what they didn’t have.
“We are in a really exciting time right now where everyone is interested in being a part of the arts on campus, from students to administration,” said Beker. “I’m just looking forward to it and to continuing to work towards more because it’s never enough. That’s the best thing about creativity: you can always do more.”