A fresh new perspective on the arts will soon be offered in downtown Des Moines. Though it won’t open its doors until the beginning of next year, the Market Street Media Foundry has already gathered the support of the Central Iowa art community. By giving a space and a smack in the face to working artists, its founders hope to crank out some of the best artists, events, and projects the Midwest has seen in years. The Market Street Media Foundry will not coddle artists. Founder Scott Kubie will give you the cold hard truth. Though his honesty might scare some people away, it’s a great asset for those who stick around and listen.
In September, Scott Kubie spoke to the Ames Progressive about his newest project, the Market Street Media Foundry.
Where did it all start?
Rock Iowa led to everything else. We sold funny t-shirts, that [had] jokes about Iowa stereotypes, and that led to a college-access TV show. We had bands come and play for our shows and were rocking out in the basement about the same time that the philosophy classes were getting going upstairs. It annoyed them, but it all worked out okay. We did some pretty awful shows in the beginning before Keri came on board. She’s an amazing producer, and everything got a lot better. Things started to happen. We had an opportunity to do a broadcast show. We decided we better protect our project. Having a company would be better than to not; that’s when we started the Revue Creative.
It’s turned into one guy with an umbrella corporation. So Rock Iowa went from t-shirts to a public access show, to a media-heavy website, and now we are working with a magazine to do a few projects in print. It’s very organic, and I like to keep things open to allow for that. I’m very big on ready, aim, fire. Just go. I have so many talented friends who weren’t entrepreneurial and the Revue Creative helps provide them with work.
What prompted you to get a physical space, the MSMF?
It was getting hard to get things done. Having meetings with clients in coffee shops and working in your basement is fine, but it was just getting too complicated. Projects that should have been easy were getting stretched out because everything wasn’t all in the same place. Even just dropping things off for each other became a problem. If we all had keys to the same location it would be easy.
We had some creative people who were in on it in the beginning and threw in [money]. We decided we would all rather have one big space than several smaller studios and offices. I had the building owner’s name from before when we were going to rent a much smaller space [currently the massage studio across the hall]. When we contacted him about the larger space he gave us a price we were happy with, we said yes, and that was that. Originally, we were renting another area of the building, but that changed as it came closer to the move-in deadline. It became apparent the renovations were not going to be completed because of building permit coding laws – those things just take time. The owner offered us the front area that was already finished and we moved right in. There was one hideous rose-colored wall we repainted and we added molding on the wall to hang work from, but that was the only thing we had to do.
We kicked off the space’s opening with a New Year’s Eve party. You know, we thought people would swing by, say congratulations, look around, and then go on to the big cool parties. But they just all stuck around.
So you were the big cool party?
Yeah, it turned out that way. Everyone helped with the clean-up. It was amazing to see people sweeping up the party poppers and picking up cans at 4 in the morning. Everyone has been really supportive and helpful that way.
How did you develop the membership plan for the Foundry?
From the outset we knew we wanted members and have been putting the idea of membership out there. People become members for different reasons. Mainly, either they have something to contribute or need something that we can offer them. The idea is really fraternity-based. You become a member to be something bigger than yourself. You pay dues not to get something out of it, but because they need to be paid to keep the doors open. There is not a philosophy, movement, or collective here. Just work hard and have fun. We provide resources for artists to use: business resources. You can leave things to be picked up, have a business address here, there is high-speed Internet, office supplies, color and black-and-white laser printers, and a resource library. Sure, it’s not copy shop quality, but it’s great for being able to print a proof quickly. The library is growing quickly, we have back issues of Juxtapose, CRAFT, MAKE, a handmade craft zine, and soon [we’ll have] back issues of the Ames Progressive. We have art books and computer programming books, too. A lot of artists forget how handy it is to have office supplies on hand – how much easier it makes the business side of art.
It’s grown really fast. It was one of those “we are on to something here” moments. We are hoping to expand to a messier, louder studio space for visual artists who have fumes and are cutting wood. The front looks pretty cleaned up, but I’m not opposed to paint getting messed around up here either. We encourage people to come down and make a mess. If there is something you need to do we will figure out how to get it down. It’s kind of chicken and the egg right now. The more members that join, the more resources we will be able to offer. We will expand out into the building as our membership grows. Right now we have three unclaimed drafting tables for common use, computers, and exhibition space. When you become a member you are privy to events, become part of the marketing we do, and have a real ownership of the space. The space is intended to be a real DIY space. We are all doing things. Let’s do them all together. You can rent from the owner of the building directly and become a MSMF member. I don’t want to make money being a landlord, I want to help artists be creative.
Most members are not full-time artists. They have jobs, families, outside obligations. So it’s pretty slow during the day – after work and the weekends are when it’s the most vibrant. The other night we were all down here working and one thing led to another and we were reading My Little Pony fan fiction out loud. I don’t know how that could have happened any other night, any place else in the world. Being involved doesn’t mean you have to be a member, though. We have a lot of people who participate in events and help promote them but remain non-members.
How is the MSMF helping artists be creative and successful?
A lot of what we do here is from what I’ve learned working on other projects. Pretty much I do what I want to. I want to help artists to break down self-imposed boundaries. What holds most artists back is not their work, it’s who they know and more importantly how they present themselves.
I think of MSMF in terms of a platform. We are providing a place for people to launch themselves. Speed is key in any creative career, how quickly you can get to the point where things start to happen fast. Enabling people to act quickly keeps momentum up, keeps people from giving up, and the quicker things happen, the more they are willing to stick with it and put effort into it. We are providing resources so they know what the next step is. Going from a full-time, cushy job to being a full-time artist with a sketchbook and laptop in a coffee shop is scary. A lot scarier than moving into a studio with other creative people. There is no reason to go in at it alone. And there is a lot to be had from collaborating. Artists really limit themselves by not having a support network. You can only do so much work, and no one is going to pass off their big freelance project to you if it’s just Joe Freelance Graphic Designer on his own.
There are a lot of things I see artists not doing locally that professional artists do. Things like having business cards, or even an e-mail address. Once you get outside the local bubble, you are not competing. There is a place for everyone’s stuff. People need all the help they can get. Knowing things like how to apply to galleries and having a profession e-mail can go a long way. Having firstname.lastname@example.org does not look professional at all. Sure that can work, but why not take an easy step to make yourself look better? I know too many people doing great work who talk about “this little hobby side thing I’m doing over here” and don’t think of themselves as artists. I might be a terrible artist, but if I say I am, then I am, and that’s it. The frustrations I see creative people have are usually self-imposed.
[We want to focus on] working in a series versus making random, one-shot works. When you look at what professional artists are doing, they work on one specific project at a time. They create a body of work, land a place that makes sense for the work, then move on to the next project. That seems so obvious to me, but it must not be because I see so many great artists not doing that. We put on events to help artists further their career in non-traditional ways.