In an old factory building in Trondheim artists and architects have joined forces. Going on its third year, and with joint exhibitions in its future, RAKE studio is gradually evolving into an established art space.
In 2011, architect Trygve Ohren, together with artists Charlotte Rostad and Cathrine Ruud, started seeing the potential of a studio in an old car workshop in a box-shaped building in the heart of Trondheim’s suburbs, Svartlamoen. Three years later, it is a collective workspace for 14 artists within the fields of painting, sculpture, graphic design, and photography, as well as musicians and one architect (Ohren), who have all set up their individual ateliers up in this huge run-down space; every artist has their own separate studio in addition to the common area.
Seen from the outside, one gets the impression that Trondheim’s art milieu is characterized by vitality and quality. At the moment, the energy in the local art scene is compellingly strong, and everyone and everything seem to be in motion. However, the ‘new’ Trondheim, boasting several new art galleries – which made for a tremendous change in the art scene of the city – has not been enough to meet the demands of a burgeoning art scene.
The role of the collective studios around the city has become increasingly significant for the future; they are able to nurture newly educated creative minds, provide them with greater opportunities, and most importantly, make them invest in the future of the local art scene. In this connection, KUNSTforum met with some of the city´s movers and shakers, people who intend to be part of this change: part of a wider artistic context, while preserving the essence of the movement.
Trygve Ohren and Charlotte Rostad from RAKE comment on the actual situation: ‘You feel there isn’t much to do in a city like Trondheim after you have finished with your studies. Most of our classmates usually go to Oslo or move to Berlin,’ Rostad states. ‘The art scene and architectural proposals, too, have such a small role here. As an artist, you can’t really afford to have your own studio, and it’s quite hard to find a space to showcase your work. All the same, we both want to live and work in Trondheim, so we realized that we should do something to change this!’ she exclaims.
Ohren interjects, ‘I think things are different now; it seems that people are involved in many more things.’
Create your dream job
Indeed, creative events and exhibitions are held all week ‘round, providing a closer look at Trondheim’s evolving art scene. Norway’s third largest city is gradually changing. There are new people here and accordingly, new visions, all contributing an air of promise to the young art scene. That promise has led to the tradition of peering in envy at bigger cities like Oslo being discarded, and a boost to Trondheim’s artistic standing.
Although it is hard to predict what the future will hold, these innovative endeavours play an important part in attracting young, creative types who will set the city apart. Fairly well known from similar changes in Bergen, this is the test of gentrification, necessary for the flourishing of art and culture. Yet, the duo says, ‘in a rather small city like Trondheim, we can keep a certain distance and stay true to our original professional values.’
‘Simply put, if your dream job doesn’t exist, you have to create it,’ continues Rostad. ‘With that in mind, we started searching for a studio where I could work with my paintings, and that we could share with others. And why not add some architects to our company to give the workspace a pleasant atmosphere.’ Having worked collaboratively on student projects, Ohren and Rostad knew it was time to move forward.
They established RAKE Showroom first, a prelude to creation of the studio itself. The showroom is the brainchild of four students from NTNU [Trondheim University], among them Ohren himself, who invited architecture students from all over Norway to participate in the formation of a new exhibition space for art and architecture showcasing skills and artists – from the local to international level.
‘So, in 2011, Trygve had this idea of bringing to life an old workshop called TreStykker,’ begins Rostad. ‘We wanted to prove how an art scene is continuously being shaped through new initiatives. In addition, we wanted to explore the relationship between art and architecture. In other words, we wanted to generate an interactive creative scene, by opening a continuous discussion on art and the mechanics of architecture in the art scene,’ she continues.
‘Likewise, with RAKE studio, we initially wanted to join forces with more people to show an alternative how architecture also blends with aesthetics, and ultimately, to contribute to Trondheim’s cultural scene,’ adds Ohren, continuing: ‘Currently, the studio is run by local artists and me, and as people have come and gone, we kind of lost the balance between the artistic and architectural sides, but we have to pay the rent somehow.’
Artists and architects
RAKE Studio’s space is in Verkstedhallen: a building in an old industrial area, next to a kindergarten. You go down an alley, open an old, unpainted door, and enter the vast factory floor: many small workspaces, concrete walls that have oozed paint, and wood makeshifts all around. In both English and Norwegian, RAKE usually refers to the gardening tool, but can also be used in the sense of gathering or collecting.
‘RAKE Studio aims to bring people together, in a place they can actually discuss what they are doing.’
Rostad explains: ‘We started both initiatives at the same time and used one name in order to avoid all the byzantine bureaucratic procedures!’
Both Rostad and Ohren recall, ‘Formerly the space was bare and next to an event location going by the name Remida. Then, back in September 2011, we had the idea to officially create a meeting point for arts & architecture. So, artists and architects from all over joined us, but after a while, they decided to leave and everyone went each to their own. That’s how the current studio took shape. When you enter the studio, there’s this big space where you can do work with rough things like sculptures, then it opens out into a sound room, a meeting room-cum-kitchen, and at the far end – according to the initial plan – an office area for 4-5 people working at desks. Today, since there aren’t so many architects working here anymore, it’s not working the way we intended originally and therefore, it’s been divided into three main studios.’
Trondheim’s art scene has its own special rhythm. What it fosters is really the direct opposite of Oslo art scene, where exhibitions are booming and studios are mushrooming.
‘In Trondheim, there’re four art studios in total. There’s an even bigger one, which is in an old school building outside town that’s been transformed into a creative studio. That one belongs to Trondheim Municipality,’ explains Ohren.
‘You don’t necessary see people when you work in a closed studio like that, whereas RAKE is totally open. We don’t have any closed doors and everyone’s work is exposed to everyone else for criticism or appreciation,’ he continues.
For the RAKE duo, ‘a studio does not serve the artists’ personalities but is a haven for the exchange of ideas.’
He resumes, ‘In addition to everything else, we’re a totally independent studio. In other words, we don’t need any kind of external support, though of course, we apply for additional equipment and perhaps lowered rent from time to time.’
‘This is an age of self-discovery for us,’ says Rostad, explaining that time will tell about the studio’s transformation and further developments.
Since the inception of RAKE, Ohren and Rostad have developed numerous projects, not only in Trondheim but, internationally. The RAKE team belongs to those who prefer not to let things get stale, an approach that always takes them back on the road, so they up with Romlab, a research project/workshop on the move, also based on the meeting of art and architecture. Presently, they are trying to reflect on the last year´s experiences, enhancing the RAKE Showroom’s programme for 2013.
They are both trustworthy go-getters who, when the going gets tough, get the job done.
‘Every project is an excuse to question and redefine the meaning of our work, so we can invent new ways of working, have new thoughts to share and gather, which then spark creative innovation,’ concludes Ohren.
Apparently, they have one foot safely in the present, the other in a seemingly bright tomorrow. Standing together, they bring fresh hope and draw out the more sophisticated part of Trondheim society.