Sunset Park

SPark Workshop Brooklyn provides a home for artists

April 22, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Artists Gary Oshust (left) and Paul Kruger work on their latest projects in SPark Workshop Brooklyn. Photo courtesy Gary Oshust

Industry City tenants share creative space

Industry City, the collection of 16 historic warehouses that sits on 40 acres of land located next to the Sunset Park waterfront, enjoys a solid reputation as a hub for businesses, artists and budding technology entrepreneurs. Here’s a look at one of the entities that is a part of the fabric at Industry City.

SPark Workshop Brooklyn, a collection of art studios located in the Industry City building at 33 34th St., is the brainchild of sculptor Gary Oshust. “It’s a cooperative art space,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle in a recent phone interview.

Occupying over 10,000 square feet of space, SPark Workshop Brooklyn is home to 48 artists and craftspeople all of whom pay a fee to become members. The artists share studio space and offer each other tips on how to make their work better. The creative types are generous with each other, often sharing work tools, Oshust said.

The name of the space came to Oshust when he and his girlfriend were thinking about the neighborhood in which Industry City is located.

“My girlfriend and I were brainstorming name ideas when it occurred to us that Sunset Park could have a double meaning as SPark, so the capital S can still represent the neighborhood as well as a place to spark new ideas,” he said.

SPark Workshop Brooklyn is structured to meet the different needs of its participating artists, Oshust said.

“It works like a gym membership,” Oshust explained. “There are common areas that people share. There is a basic membership that allows you to have access to studio space to work. But you can’t leave your work in our lockers. You have to take the work with you when you leave at the end of the day. The next level up of membership gives you studio space and a locker to store your work.”

Oshust opened SPark Workshop Brooklyn five years ago.

He became a sculptor in 2001. He had been working as an IT when Sept. 11 took place. “I decided to change my life and become a sculptor,” he said, adding that the terror attack and the tragic deaths of thousands of people taught him that he should live life to the fullest.

His work is not abstract. “I tend toward the realistic side,” he said, listing Leonardo Da Vinci and Auguste Rodin as being among his influences.

Oshust and his fellow SPark Workshop Brooklyn members took part in a major open house at Industry City on April18.

More than 100 of the creative artists and innovators, who are breathing new life into the 100-year-old Industry City, opened their doors to the public in a free, day-long celebration of art and entrepreneurship.

Visitors got the chance to tour art studios and businesses and meet many of the artists, makers and manufacturers who have found a creative home in Industry City. The diverse group of craftsmen included painters, food makers, sculptors, fashion designers, photographers, furniture makers and distillers.

“I want people to get excited about the things being made here,” Oshust told the Eagle. “If they hire people who work here for art projects that would be a bonus.”

SPark Workshop Brooklyn is a creative hub that generates wonderful artworks, according to Oshust. “There is high quality stuff going on here,” he said. The studios house painters, sculptors, and wood workers. “Half of our members are woodworking craftspeople,” he said.

The story of how Oshust, 47, came to start SPark Workshop can be summarized by the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Five years ago, Oshust was completing service as an apprentice to a sculptor in Soho and was looking to branch out on his own.

“But I was having trouble finding studio space to rent. I’m a sculptor. Most studios want quieter artists like painters. And when I found a space, the rent was too high,” he said.

After learning about a cooperative studio, he got an idea to do the same. “I got it in my head that I could do that. I thought a cooperative studio would be the way to go,” he recalled.

He saw an ad for space to rent in Industry City. “It was the right price and it’s an amazing location,” he said. “And the landlords at Industry City are great.”

Formerly known as Bush Terminal, Industry City is a collection of buildings and warehouses located next to the Sunset Park waterfront between 31st and 40 streets.

Oshust moved in and started inviting artists to share his space. He is happy with the way everything worked out, he said.