Finding Place with Sowolu


I first heard of The Yards in late 2017 from an art friend I made while curating shows for a small—now defunct—coffee shop on the Erie Canal in the ‘burbs. It was the lovely and talented Amber Tracy, who was a renter there at the time and told me about the Collaborative Art Residency.  It sounded exactly like the opportunity I had been waiting to come along. I was in a dark place at the time and had been trying to bring my art practice, which I hadn’t touched since 2009, back from the dead.

At Amber’s recommendation I applied for the residency, lo’ and behold, I got accepted! It was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time, and I’m still grateful to my husband and employer at the time for their patience with me. I had to cut back on my work hours a bit to make time to work the minimum hours in the studio and be present for open studio Saturdays.

I was blessed with the humans I got to share space with during my January 2018 residency, I’m sure every resident says that but mine still felt special. It was Kristina’s first year officially steering the ship as executive director, and it culminated in a pop-up show at the Memorial Art Gallery. I’m still friends with some of my residency mates and am so grateful for that.

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The experience meant a lot to me because I had been feeling very disconnected, I couldn’t relate to anyone around me anymore. Here at The Yards I was finally with like-minded individuals, who actually couldn’t be more different from each other, but shared a passion for exploration, questioning and of course, art. These things had been missing from my life for much too long.

I quickly fell in love with the space and the people, so when a studio space opened up later that spring I hopped on the chance, now my husband and I share a space in the corner of the main gallery. Making it work with rent and jobs is worth the struggle, but what I get from having a space dedicated to my art practice and in the midst of other working artists has been invaluable, how you do measure that?


I love walking up the street on Saturdays and seeing all the people swarming the public market, the dogs, the strollers, the couples, the buskers. I love saying hi to anyone I may know and greeting strangers. For some reason I love walking up our crazy stairs and seeing how the light is different that morning. I love walking to my studio door and opening it up to see my studio, every time. I love saying hi to my fellow renters as they trickle in for the morning. I love taking smoke breaks on the fire escape and watching the streets bustle while I listen to the conversations at Java’s beneath me.

Sometimes it’s hard to find thins to be grateful for, especially these days. I’m grateful for finding The Yards, a place I can feel comfortable to be my weird art self, and not do it alone.

By: Lisa Rickman