Bay Artists Co-op - Twenty Years of Creating
- story and photos by Karen Fineran
The large white concrete building at the corner of Bookter and Necaise, with its brightly painted label of “Bay Artists Co-Op,” tends to catch the eye as one passes by. You may have found yourself wondering what lies inside . . . and, what exactly is an artist’s co-op anyway?
This month, you’ll have your chance to browse the treasures within, to speak with the artists who created them, and to watch live demonstrations of art techniques, all while enjoying live music, free refreshments, and celebrating the notable twentieth year anniversary of the oldest artists’ co-op in Mississippi.
A cooperative simply is a business or organization that is owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Started in 1994, the Bay Artists Co-Op is the oldest artists’ cooperative in the state of Mississippi. Manager and founder Regan Carney began this one, shortly after she moved to Bay St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1992. (A native New Orleanian, Carney was then working from an artist’s cooperative in L.A.’s Artist District.) Like many others before her, she was enraptured by the natural beauty, serenity, and safety of the Gulf Coast.
The artists share the monthly rent and utilities of the building (based upon the square footage of their studios inside) and may also share use of the large electric kilns inside. Over the years, the size of the co-op has ranged from as few as three artists to as many as twelve at a time, and has included clay artists, sculptors, painters, jewelry artists, and metal artists.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina’s formidable storm surge partially destroyed the building and completely destroyed the equipment, supplies and art works inside, Carney stepped up to the task of rebuilding the co-op. Along with some of the volunteer groups staying in town at the time, and with the assistance of grant money from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Carney and her friends and family scoured and repainted the building, and repaired the extensive structural damage to the walls and roof. (Her husband, fellow co-op artist Mark Buszkiewicz, was nearly killed when he fell from the roof rafters to the cement floor twenty feet below). About eight months later electricity was restored to the building, some of the artists whose lives had been so disrupted returned to work in their studios there, and the co-op went on.
Currently, the artists at the co-op number eight, including Carney. The other studio artists are clay artists Barney Adams, Gayle Andersson, Mark Buskiewicz, Lynne Harris and Jeanne Pertuit, and painters Janet Densmore and Kathleen Higgins.
Carney’s work has been shown at numerous galleries in Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Biloxi and Ocean Springs, and can currently be seen and purchased here in town at Gallery 220 and Lawson’s Studio. Carney offers pottery classes (both throwing and hand building) four days per week. She recently offered a clay wind chime workshop, and is looking forward to offering her Christmas clay ornament workshop in December. Other co-op artists also offer workshops and classes; the best way to learn about these opportunities is to speak to the artists during the open house about their work and their instructional techniques.
The open house is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday at 415 S. Necaise Avenue, across the street from the St. Stanislaus football field. Refreshments will be on hand, as will live blues and folk music by Ivory Bill, featuring Billy Ray Hammons and David Sallis. For more information, contact Regan Carney at (228) 216-0210 or Regancar@bellsouth.net.