Abandoned Factory Becomes a Haven for the Arts

Article by Miranda Woody

On top of the old Purity Bread Factory in Charleston, West Virginia, there is an art gallery like no other. The gallery and studio space, known as Hole in the Wall Studio since May of last year, features roughly three thousand square feet of floor space, which owner Kim Shrader tells me is “entirely covered with art”. The Studio features a great room that boasts twenty-foot high ceilings and impressive murals on all four walls, a long room that is perfect for displaying gallery art, and a studio space in which artists come to collaborate.

Black Light ShowKim tells me that Hole in the Wall has been a very successful staple in the Charleston art scene for over nine years, but even more so since it underwent a change in ownership (and inevitably, a rebranding) last May. Originally owned and founded by West Virginia State University graduate Katherine Hawkins, the studio began as a place for WVSU art students to work and display their creations. WVSU students have always been involved in the studio and Kim tells me that she, herself, is a WVSU graduate. Kim and her colleagues Wesley Eary and Tyler Hudnall have been collaborating with artists throughout the year to transform every bit of the building and make the space itself a piece of art. Kim tells me, “When Katherine first turned this place over to me, it was pretty bare. There was great art, but the walls themselves were blank. All four walls of the great room are covered in murals, now, featuring roughly twenty-foot high images, made with black light paint, by different artists. When we turn the black lights on, the entire room glows!” She adds that, although black light paint isn’t commonly used in art galleries, it is one of their favorite mediums at Hole in the Wall. Kim also tells me that each piece of art in Hole in the Wall Studio is like a collaboration between artists who seek to positively critique and inspire one another: “I always tell my colleagues, ‘when you view a painting make sure you point out the positives first.’ We all went to WVSU and studied art there, and needless to say they were pretty hard on us. I know how that feels; I know how hard that can be when you’re just recently getting to the art world. So, I want to keep artists creating. Always pick out the positives, and have fun. We have fun here when we create. We build one another up. We always highlight the positives before the negatives, that way it keeps everyone inspired. You can really hurt an artist with unnecessarily harsh criticism, and we want to avoid that.”

Hole in the Wall is not typically open to the public, except per request for private tours and viewings. Kim tells me that this is mostly due to the strange, old-fashioned space they are in: “We love the space, but we cannot be open to the public in this space. We have some issues heating and cooling the space due to it being an older building. So, we can’t open to the public, really. At least not always; we open per individual request, and for shows.” Some recent shows hosted by Hole in the Wall have done extremely well, with multiple artists showcasing their works and hundreds of members of the public coming out to view the artists’ creations.

Hole in the WallThe first two shows were all about introducing the public to Hole in the Wall, and they were called “Step Into Our Niche” and “Black Light District”. These shows highlighted what Hole in the Wall is all about, and what kind of art they look to produce and feature through collaborations. Their third (and most recent) show was called “Propaganda Extravaganza”. This show was a free-form style show based on the current political climate of America. Kim states, “We let artists come in and express themselves freely about current politics. Whatever was on their mind, they could say freely here. About two-hundred people from the public showed up, too, which was great. It was very exciting.”

Hole in the Wall Studio does not have any shows coming up this summer, but they will be doing community outreach events and fundraisers during the summer months in order to promote their “big show” in the fall. Kim tells me that the “big show” will happen sometime in October or November, and will most likely feature a quirky, funhouse theme. Kim jokingly states that, “We do a lot of carwashes in the summer months. We make the men go out and shake their money-makers; we put them to work!” She also tells me that, this June, Hole in the Wall Studio will be doing community outreach events in accordance with Charleston’s annual FestivALL. Hole in the Wall will be participating in children’s art workshops in both Davis Park and Riverfront Park in Charleston, sometime in June. Kim says, “We definitely want to build up our community outreach. We are so excited to work with some kids, and hopefully get them into art at a young age!”

Official dates for Hole in the Wall Studio’s fall show, as well as for their summer art workshops, will be posted on their official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HITWS/) as soon as they are available. Hole in the Wall Studio is located at 1007 Bigley Avenue, Charleston, West Virginia.

All photos provided by Hole in the Wall Studio
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Miranda WoodyMIRANDA WOODY

Miranda Woody is a Concord University student originally from Beckley, West Virginia. She is pursuing a degree in English. She spent the summer of 2016 living in Brooklyn, New York, and has visited seven countries in her lifetime. She is twenty-one years old, and plans to graduate from Concord in December, 2017. She enjoys writing poetry, rock climbing, and traveling. Check out her other work on goodmorningmiranda.com.