On the riverfront: Freeing creativity

Laura and Derek Ellis inside the historic Albany Iron Works building, where Laura is starting Albany Art Studio in January.

The Albany riverfront is on my regular bike route, so I could hardly miss the big signs announcing that something new was happening there. On Friday I leaned the bike against the wall of the old Albany Iron Works building and went inside to learn more.

The two-story brick structure at the corner of Water Avenue and Montgomery Street is Albany's oldest surviving industrial building. It served as the pattern shop of Albany Iron Works, which started in 1866. The foundry is long gone, but the corner structure survives. In recent memory it housed a costume business and then, for several years, an antique shop.

Now refurbished, the building has become the rented home of Albany Art Studio, the kind of place that Laura Ellis, once an art student at Oregon State, says she has always wanted to own and run. I met her and her husband, Derek, when I stopped by the place on Friday.

Everything you want to know about the studio is explained in a stunning website Laura has built. You can find it at albanyartstudio.com. When the place opens in January, it plans to offer everything from memberships and instruction to open studio hours, occasional gallery showings, and special events, all centering on the art of painting.

One of the banners outside announces a "splatter box." Apparently that's what it sounds like. "Let's throw some paint," the website says. This part of the studio you can rent for date nights, parties or events such a "team building." (Just what a bunch of corporate types might need -- a giant canvas and buckets of watercolors to splash around.)

Laura is enthusiastic about the venture, whose motto is "Creativity Unleashed." On the sunny day after Thanksgiving, it looked to me that it has the makings of a lively business and an inviting place, a welcome addition to the growing mix of uses on my riverfront beat. (hh)

Big signs tell you that the old Albany Iron Works building has found a new use.






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