IN the lobby of Sulfur Studios, the space’s founders are gathered around a table littered in exhibition brochures and expansion plans. A row of lightboxes, illuminated with the photography of co-founder Emily Earl, pops off the walls.
There’s a familiar hum of activity, imagination and possibility that’s naturally become a part of the Starland studio space/gallery’s ambience.
It’s strange to think that, around 365 days ago, this place was just a grungy shell of a building.
Thank goodness Earl, Alexis Javier Perez, and Jennifer Moss saw its potential.
“Someone the other day said to me, ‘How long have y’all been around? Two, three years?’” Earl laughs. “We’re coming up on our first-year anniversary! But it’s very nice that people feel like we’ve been doing stuff that long.”
Perhaps it’s because a place quite like Sulfur just didn’t really exist in the Savannah of 2015. The spirit of a collective and affordable work, exhibition, and event space had certainly been explored before (Studio 2Ten, Co-Lab, etc.), but Sulfur popping up during Starland’s surge of popularity and the expansion of First Friday Art March created new opportunities for exploration and community.
Mermaid-themed performance art? Step right up. All-ages DIY punk shows? Alrighty. SCAD senior thesis exhibitions? Yep. Pop-up vintage shop? The door’s open.
Now, there’s a chance to expand from one floor into an entire building of studio space and multipurpose rooms.
The second floor of their building used to be residential, though many will recall it as The Warehouse, a DIY venue.
“People were living up there and doing shows,” Moss recalls. “The owner came to us when the lease was ending and said he was interested in having it change over to commercial. He came to us in March; we’d been open for two months. We would have loved to, but there’s no way we could have committed to something like that after two months of operating.”
Though it wasn’t feasible at the time, it got the gears turning.
“Even from the beginning, we’ve had a big imagination,” grins Earl.
“Starting over the summer, we kind of exploded with people interested in studios,” Moss adds.
Currently, Sulfur houses 14 studios ranging from 64-325 square feet each. They also have a long waiting list of creators eager to work in the space.
“They need studios and want to be in this neighborhood,” Moss says. “We really want to be able to provide that.”
The second floor will house eight more studios.
“We’re trying to offer something different,” explains Moss. “Down here, we have all the nice, small spaces; they’re great for an illustrator or someone working at a computer. The spaces upstairs are all larger—around 150 square feet, 160, some of them.”
“There’s a lot of natural light,” adds Earl. “A lot of people wanted to work in here but were like, ‘I really need a window.’ We only have a few downstairs, so they’ll have a window coming into the space.”
Plus, the dividing walls won’t go all the way up to the ceiling, so there’s space for light to shine in the windowless studios, too.
The trio is especially excited about a large, flexible event space where a rainbow of events and workshops can be hosted.
“Artists can work on bigger projects,” offers Moss.
“There’s a nice big wall for projections or a movie or critique,” says Earl.
“We could resurrect Drink and Draw,” Perez chimes in.
With the downstairs gallery being so in demand, an upstairs space allows for more artistic action year-round.
“There are times in the year where it needs to be a gallery all the time,” says Moss. “We’ve had to say no to a lot, because we need to have art in the space.”
“We wanna say yes,” Earl affirms.
Currently, the team’s waiting on approval from the city for Carroll Construction to get started.
“It’s in the city’s court, so it could be two weeks, it could be two months,” says Moss. “From the moment we have approval, the buildout will just take a week.”
Sulfur has been running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the expansion. That campaign will run through March 1, but if you’re more of an IRL-kinda donor, mark your calendar for this weekend’s Carnivale-themed 1-Year Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser.
Expect musical performances from Nightingale News and Sasha Strunjas of Velvet Caravan, as well as a DJ set from Jose Ray.
Guests are encouraged to wear masks, and there’s even an auction on disguises designed and decorated by some of Savannah’s most talented artists. John Deaderick (Starland Café), Meredith Sutton (Service Brewing) and Lori Judge (Judge Realty) will select Best Overall Mask, and attendees can cast their vote for People’s Choice. The top masks will be awarded prize packages from sponsors.
It wouldn’t be a Sulfur party without Earl’s classic Polaroid photo booth, so arrive ready to strike a pose.
The $30 entry fee gets you food from Starland Cafe, one signature drink, and a Community Level Membership to Sulfur Studios (complete with membership card!).
As always, the community-minded Sulfur will be taking suggestions from attendees regarding what they’d like to see happen in the space.
“I think that’s how we’ve been successful,” Moss says. “Before we even signed a lease on this place, we were able to just get in here and have an open house. We had a big piece of paper and asked, ‘What do you imagine?’ And we’ve pulled ideas from that paper many times. Just being able to do that: that’s the biggest thing we can do is provide space for—”
“—what people want to do,” Earl finishes. “It’s important to reflect that.”