Local musician Rick Coughlin founded Grove Studios in late 2016 with the goal of establishing it as a community space for musicians—by musicians! The Grove team’s idea, with an architectural vision of Breck Crandell, was for a compound of individual artists’ rehearsal spaces comprised of a fleet of shipping containers. Coughlin’s efforts have been aided by the management and community outreach efforts of Erich Friebel, as well as a board of advisers.
Encouragingly, they won some early support from Pitch Ypsi last March, after they essentially began experimenting with fundraising performances and exhibitions back in January, inside of physical, 6,500 sq ft space they rented at 1145 W. Michigan Ave.
I’m hoping to check in with Coughlin and the Grove team at least once a month, because, with any ambitious, grassroots, community-focused effort like this, the road towards completion is full of twists and delays.
The idea of starting something like a collective/multi-purpose space for artists isn’t the original idea of Coughlin’s, but he emphasizes that it has been successfully established in other areas of the country–just not yet in Southeast Michigahn.
Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor are both home to respectively sizable populations of artists–particularly musicians/bands. The issue of a dearth of opportunity, locations to perform, scarcity of support, was something I tackled last year with a series (in the print pages of Current).
Grove seemed to be a sufficient answer to that…
So let’s start with my asking you what you would tell someone on the street, someone who might be blissfully ignorant of the situation in the scene and tell them what Grove really hopes to do…
Rick Coughlin: Creatives in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and the greater Detroit region deserve affordable, safe, secure, climate controlled, aesthetically pleasing spaces to get their work done. Independent creatives generally get the leftovers of real estate in post-industrial warehouses and leaky roof storefronts with ramshackle accommodations, and Grove is working to deliver something different with a business model that is sustainable. We have limitations regarding some industrial forms of creativity, but really we are open to so much under the umbrella of what it means to be creative. We prefer the term “independent creatives” when referring the community we have helped create, and we wholeheartedly support their efforts because we ourselves – the Grove team – are musicians, artists, photographers, teachers, tinkerers and creators.
What have you been up to, aside from initially providing that first space throughout the year. What happens next, ideally?
Coughlin: We are connecting with other local organizations, venues and businesses to foster a community that helps to educate, support, and incubate great ideas in the arts, music and creative scene. Our strongest community partnership so far is with Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti Music & Arts Guild who has been facilitating pop-up events at our space over the past year for some very amazing local artists and musicians. We’ve also been reaching out to Riverside Arts Center, EMU, Cultivate in Depot Town, Arts Alliance, and Oz Music in Ann Arbor to see what synergies might exist.
It can be an uphill battle. A space just for artists essentially subverts the status-quo.
Coughlin: We believe it is crucial to support and grow the community we live in and we are inspired by what shouldn’t happen. Just consider the Oakland Ghost Ship community in California or the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, and then look at what CAN happen as in the case of Space in Austin, Texas and Pop Brixton in South London, UK.
Grove’s ability to stay in that space for the year ahead seemed, for a moment, a bit uncertain…
Coughlin: That’s true; regardless, 1145 West Michigan Ave is still compelling and we are in talks with the impending owner about how we will move forward and how the space will be improved. We are preparing to sign a one year lease with the new owner sometime in December and we are very excited to be expanding our current space offerings which will include some welcomed updates in security and comfort.
What’s Grove going to look like in the year ahead, conceivably?
Coughlin: We’re hoping to have room for 5 to 6 more permanent bands, smaller spaces for electronic artists, lessons and hourly rental and a community room where artists of all types can create individually or collaboratively. We’ll be reaching out to the wider community soon to sign people on.
This is going to take a village, so to speak, right?
Coughlin: Yes, the fact remains that our development concept, in the long term, is not cheap to build and it will take time, but it’s absolutely possible. We are relying on many partnerships to make the grand vision presented at Ypsi Pitch happen, because the shipping container and collaborative hub model still makes plenty of sense. Our research proves the concept to be more sustainable if we own the property, and we have explored a wide variety of properties in and around Ypsi and Ypsi Township. And we’re working with our growing team of advisers who now include a SBDC representative, a contractual CFO, an accountant, a lawyer, social media specialists and others with varying levels of expertise. We are all very encouraged that the strength and depth of this team is what will help us succeed. We are all very committed to the vision.
Just getting funding for construction, and setting up these containers, must be the biggest challenge… There’s also a crowdfunding campaign too, so talk about what needs to happen next.
Coughlin: We are working on that in multiple levels in our discussions with our banking institutions, our SBDC rep, our MBA and our contractual CFO. We are working on a term sheet for potential investors and hope to start sharing this soon with locals who are interested in real estate investment or in supporting the creative community. We are working on a partnership with a Detroit construction company that specializes in shipping container construction and various companies globally that have already designed and produced the studio grade shipping container pods. Our Ypsi Pitch won dollars have already gone to Woodshed Agency, who will help us navigate our crowdfunding campaign when we are ready to launch.
And if we wanna know more, or just if we just want to keep up to date on Grove…?
Coughlin: We currently have no events planned for the next couple months due to the ownership transition, but are planning to do something cool with Music & Arts Guild at another local venue sometime in January. Stay tuned through our Facebook and website. And, if anyone is interested in helping with events, or being a part of our advisory team, or considering investment with Grove Studios, they can send me or Erich an email. We’re open to all input and guidance; we are interested in adding to our team. We specifically need folks who have legal expertise or finance and business background.
We’ll check back in soon. For now, Coughlin, Erich Friebel and their team are keeping the dream of Grove alive.