Photography center, community space, Light Rider studios to celebrate grand opening

After a successful pre-opening last September, a local artist celebrates the public launch of Light Rider Studios – a community-focused photography center – this Saturday, March 26.

Located in Corvallis at 2150 NE Conifer Blvd, mulch paths lead to a garage that’s been converted into a colorful, open interior dotted with throw pillows, yoga mats and coffee tables, and fully stocked with digital photography tools . Towards the back, a revolving door adorned with adhesive stars serves as the entrance to the darkroom.

The studio, open Sunday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., is run by photographer Koa A. Tom, who welcomes the community to his space “for artistic pursuits and [sic] restoration work; practical workshops on digital and analog photographic methodologies. Their studio “offers the use of space and equipment to artists, seasoned and raw, for their personal art projects or events.”

Members of the community can use the studio’s photographic resources, scan or restore personal or professional photos, take coursestake part in weekly art club eventsor rent the space for other creative projects.

Purpose and context

That of the workshop community agreement describes it as “a space for each person to safely explore and express themselves through the medium of photography and other creative and respectful uses of space”.

“I absolutely want [the studio] to be a multipurpose community space, and that is why it is not limited to photography; that’s what I specialize in, and those are the services that I offer, but the space itself is still just a space,” Tom said. “If people want to run a class or a workshop, or have kids come in and do art, that’s fine because the intention is to support the arts community and all that that sounds like. And for me , it’s very broad: it includes music, writing, all that.

Growing up in Corvallis, Tom moved to Seattle to pursue more hands-on experience in their photographic endeavours. They cited the pandemic as a major instigator of the return to the city.

“I worked at Moon Photo, where I learned photo restoration under the tutelage of Bob Mullins and Jane Keis, who are fantastic artists themselves,” they said. “With COVID, people were cleaning out their darkrooms or garages and calling the photo lab to ask if we wanted equipment, which we didn’t need because we didn’t have a darkroom. Deep down I knew I had always wanted to create my own darkroom, so I started hoarding this equipment in my 254 square foot studio. Then COVID caused rents in Seattle to skyrocket, and I wanted to come back to a less crowded environment and be closer to my family.

Although he was not a city dweller, Tom was convinced that they could take the artistic knowledge and experience gained in Seattle and share it with a smaller, more familiar community.

“Having lived in Seattle and seen so much support and respect for the arts there, I think we could do it here too,” they said. “I come back and see that a lot of my peers are still here, and there are so many amazing, incredible artists and resources supporting this community, and I want to be a part of it.”

The dark room

Tom saw an opening for community support when the Craft Center darkroom at Oregon State University closed for good.

“I knew there was no longer that resource that was here, so this might have been a case where opening a community darkroom wasn’t a good idea because there’s no demand for it, or maybe it’s a need in the community that’s not being met,” they said.

Although there is a photography and digital studio at OSU, it is only open to students taking photography courses at the university.

“Oregon State University is the only place [in Corvallis] where you can access darkroom knowledge if that’s something you want to learn,” Tom said. “But following a BFA program is not everyone’s desire and is not accessible to everyone. So I think I’m kinda on the other side, curating a space for people who want to dabble or learn a bit for whatever reason, who are curious, or for people who are already artists or interested really what they’re doing.

It can also be, as described on the studio sheet PageInstagrama space for those who “desire greater control and liberation in [their] creative endeavors.

“Maybe you want to do some custom work yourself rather than just sending it off to a lab,” Tom said. “And it’s really meant to provide a different kind of education than what’s available – stuff that’s just for fun, for your own benefit and gratification, and stuff to open people’s eyes to what photography can be.”

The necessity of art

Tom also questioned the demand for art locally and wider in times of COVID, and what they could provide to help meet that need.

“I’ve definitely debated the usefulness of art, because it always seems like in crisis situations, we interpret art as a bit frivolous, but I think that’s because we see the art world, not as a world of artists, but a world where a truly arbitrary value is assigned to a few privileged people who are put on a pedestal,” they said. . “I’m more interested in what art actually means to individuals in their everyday lives.”

Looking at the local from last weekend garbage party – an art event Tom attended – as an example they note that there are many other ways to use and apply art that tend to get overlooked when thinking about art mainly in terms of galleries and museums.

“I think there’s a culture that’s already there, but hopefully it will really come to the surface where we value art because we see it everywhere,” Tom said. “Speaking of Garbage Fest, you have all these products going into the trash, and you recognize that someone designed them, someone chose these colors – there’s thought that went into them, and it’s “It’s art. That’s one of the reasons I want to have this space, so people can explore themselves and explore media that way.”

Maintain accessibility

One of the main things Tom wants for the studio is for it to be welcoming to everyone, spatially, culturally and financially.

“I want to have programs for people who are on a sliding scale, or I fund them if they have a genuine interest in learning more about film or other media, but they just can’t afford it. ‘equipment,’ they said. “I don’t want that to be a barrier, because no matter what people’s financial situation is, they deserve to have access to the resources they desire to nurture that curiosity they might have.”

As an antidote, those who are able to pay in full to use the services provided at the studio – or take out a monthly or annual subscription – will help maintain it for low-income people.

“Anyone who becomes a patron of my space contributes to the artistic community that wants to use it,” Tom said. “I see it as a bit like how Bill [McCanless] a Interzone; it’s a cafe for a lot of people, but it’s also an art space because its heart is really in the punk scene, so it doesn’t charge people to go to a show that’s held there, but he sells coffee to be able to have this space available for these different artists and events.

“So coming [to the studio] and whether you invest in an artistic photo restoration, or an art print, or get reproductions of your painting that you can then sell, or just make art, you support other artists by helping to keep the studio open. So for people who want to use a service but don’t have enough money, I can make them a deal, or if someone likes the work I do and tips me, I can put it in the gas money so I can pick up another person who wants to use the space but doesn’t have a car.

Tom jokes that running the studio this way might not make him the best businessman.

“I basically enjoy the luxury and the privileges that I have and I want to share it,” they said. “I have the space and I will continue to make sure it is funded and do all that stuff, and I also see it as my responsibility to acquire the resources and get them out to those in need. Even if it doesn’t survive as a business, and at the end of the day I just have this awesome, great studio – but I’d rather share it. I sure don’t want it to be just mine.

The opening

Tomorrow from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the grand opening will be a more festive version of the studio “Art Parks”held the first Monday morning of every month, where seasoned and developing creatives come together to talk, make art, play, and more.

Guests will have access to art supplies, books, food and drink, as well as darkroom demonstration activities, and are encouraged to bring their own musical instruments. A raffle will be available for those who participate; prizes include three 11×14 giclee prints, a free introductory film photography session, and free photo restoration. Weather permitting, there will also be an outdoor fire.

For questions about the studio, email Tom at [email protected] or call 541-602-4342. Those interested in using the space can download and sign the Studio Community Agreement here.

“Light Rider Studios operates on the historic lands of the past and present peoples of Kalapuya and gratefully honors the land itself and the people who have preserved it over generations.” —LRS Mission Statement

By Emilie Ratcliff

Earnest L. Veasey