11 THE PERFECT STUDIO Tad Savinar THE FIRST STUDIO Twenty thousand years ago, deep in a hillside cave outside Lascaux, France, someone mixed a little red clay with some water and began to paint pictures on the walls. Since the cave’s discovery in 1940, historians and anthropologists have worked to interpret these images. Were they dreams? Were they records of recent events or wished-for futures? And who made them — a shaman, a mother, a hunter, someone just traveling through? I’ve always thought of them as paintings on the walls of the first artist’s studio. Most likely there were requirements — proximity to red clay and water, adequate light and wall surfaces large enough to provide the sufficient “canvas.” Not just any cave would do. THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT STUDIO Throughout time, artists have searched for the perfect studio. The back room of a medieval workshop, a skylit French garret, an empty industrial plant in Detroit — no matter the era or location, the requirements have remained constant: the perfect light, the perfect windowed view, the perfect walls, the perfect dimensions, the perfect floor, the perfect silence, the perfect proximity to home, the perfect coffee spot or bar around the corner, and of course the perfect price and the perfect lease. Over the years I’ve had some great spaces and some not so great. My very first studio, when I was barely ten, was in the basement of my home, where I commandeered what my mother called the “Party Room.” It was complete with a pink-and-black-checked linoleum floor and walls painted with Parisian scenes. In the fifty-six years since then, I’ve had studios in office buildings, above auto repair shops, one in the living room and another at my kitchen table. I’ve worked in a 6 x 6 foot windowless mini-storage space, and in a couple of 3,000-square-foot timbered warehouses. To be successful, it helps if discipline and focus accompany an adequate place in which to work. A studio is part personal sanctuary and part surgical theater. The challenge for an artist is to conceive something new, determine how to create it, muster the skill to make it as first imagined and then to engage in an extraordinary process of self-critique to determine if it is worthy. The studio needs to be supportive to the tasks at hand. It needs to hug you like a loving mother and challenge you to do your best like an encouraging father. For in the studio you will crouch and sand, stand and paint, sit and write — all in the quest to create something that no one else has ever created before. The slightest distraction, moment of self-doubt or awkward slip of the brush can derail the entire exercise. In short, the studio needs to be perfect. KINGS AND OTHER PATRONS Ever since the first patrons saw work they liked, they have supported artists by purchasing a work or commissioning something new. But others have gone beyond to generously provide studio space. In 1979, Dr. Carl Djerassi founded the Djerassi Resident Artists Program on nearly 600 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains of northern California. And in 1981, Raymond Plank established the Ucross Foundation, situated on a 20,000-acre working cattle ranch in northeastern Wyoming at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. In the nearly forty years since, these two institutions have enticed thousands of artists out of their safe and familiar studios, given them room and board, studios sited within thrilling natural landscapes, and — most important of all — uninterrupted time to make art. Djerassi and Ucross continue to remain committed to their early instincts and values: to foster innovative thinking and enhanced creativity by providing artists with time and space in which to work. And what a gift that is — to the artists themselves and to the cultural communities to which they will return.