By Tara Bennett
For part-time artists, juggling career, home, and family can be challenging. Some find the solution in a third space where their talents can mature, but there have not been many options for artists with such a need in Baton Rouge. That was Mark Biletnikoff’s goal when he created N the Art Space, a series of professional art studios. Today Biletnikoff is celebrating 10 years of offering spaces where artists can thrive.
“It’s really exciting,” said Biletnikoff, director of N the Art Space. “There’s a lot of stuff going on; there’re a lot of different ways that we can take it. We just want to go full steam ahead.”
As a local artist, Biletnikoff knew of the need for finding a space to create his artwork. Eventually, he found his own space in Mid-City, which quickly became a hub for other artists to show their work. After receiving inquiries where they could find their own space, the wheels started turning in Biletnikoff’s mind. It was originally conceived as a co-op, but Biletnikoff structured N the Art Space to function as a business to keep things simplified.
“[The artists] like the simplification of having the space, having a voice, but not having to worry about the inner workings,” said Biletnikoff. “That way they’re allowed to focus more on their artwork.”
The space was formerly housed in a small space above the Caterie restaurant and bar on Perkins Road. Slots filled up quickly, and soon the model repeated a year later as the group outgrew its location. Biletnikoff invested all of his savings to fund the acquisition of a 5,000 square-foot location on Jefferson Highway at the Settlement in Bocage. Today N the Art Space is poised to add a 4th building to accommodate its growing creative artistic hub, which now consists of 45 artists, and are now recognized as a Louisiana Cultural District.
“When it all boils down to it, it’s about the artwork and the artists and what goes on there, you know the drive, the dedication,” said Biletnikoff. “…it’s exciting where it’s headed.”
According to Biletnikoff, he’s been approached by citizens in Slidell and Hammond, who wish to create a model similar to N the Art Space in their own towns.
“It’s just a needed thing in every small town,” said Biletnikoff. “If they don’t have space for studio artists, then they should. Anywhere you go there is going to be an artist in need of studio space.”
The primary appeal of having studio space outside of one’s home is the separation from everyday household duties, such as unwashed dishes, which can be distracting.
“If you’re at your house, there’s always something that you’re going to have to do,” said Biletnikoff. “Being away from that and those distractions helps fuel creativity, keep you focused and feel like you’re in actually creating a more positive work environment for your artwork.”
Another benefit is the ability to interact with other artists, allowing for opportunities such as outside critiques and networking. The amenities offered are private space, central heating, and air, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour locked facility, and artists can come and go as they please. N the Art Space also does not take commission from any art sales.
Currently, the spaces function as each artist’s own atmosphere, a different environment than entering a fine art gallery. Individually, each studio functions as its own gallery, and a multitude of mediums are represented including photography, jewelry, and painting. Lessons are also available, including vocal and music lessons.
“Things like that are left up to each individual to run as they see fit,” said Biletnikoff. “The facility as a whole functions as just a creative gallery studio working complex.”
For more information about N the Art Space, email firstname.lastname@example.org.