The Lamplighters, located in downtown Olympia on 4th Avenue, was conceptualized after two of the founders, Iri Alexander and Tiger Hurd, began searching for a community art space in Olympia. When they were unable to find an affordable studio space locally, they decided to create their own.
Iri and Tiger, who had met through working on art together, imagined more than simply an artist workspace. Their business model revolved around a community art studio that provided an array of services, including music recording, creative workshops and gallery space, website design and business advising, all while fostering community and helping artists of all media reach their creative goals.
After developing their vision and recruiting investors, Iri and Tiger reached out to Avalon Kragness, who was completing her business degree. After meeting for a consultation, Iri and Tiger invited Avalon to come on to the project as the business manager and a co-owner, and The Lamplighters were one step closer to opening their doors.
At the end of September 2019, The Lamplighters signed a lease at their current location, 211 4th Avenue E, next to Quality Burrito. After signing the lease, Iri, Tiger and Avalon only had a week and a half to set up before opening on October 4, the evening of Arts Walk.
When I visited The Lamplighters, one of the first things I noticed was how cozy the environment was. A quilt Avalon was working on was draped over a bench, easels were up with canvases, and the space seemed to invite the visitor to sit down and dive into a creative project.
The walls of the gallery serve as studio space for artists to sell and display their work, and a chalkboard sign displays upcoming and recurring classes, such as Thursday evening figure drawing, which is followed by a blues fusion dance class later in the evening. A bookcase adorned with plants displays The Lamplighters’ resource library, with books on quilt design, writing, ceramics and even comics. Farther back, a door leads to The Lamplighters’ recording studio, which features a ventilated VocalBooth, along with a tabletop recording space for podcasts and other audio recordings.
The Lamplighters offers perks for artists that go beyond workspace and physical resources as well. Patrons can schedule services such as website assistance, editing, graphic design and illustration, portfolio assistance, product photography, and more. They can also rent the back room for events, band rehearsal or other creative pursuits. “We’re more than just a place for artists to come in and work,” shares Avalon.
In order to use the studio space, artists have the option of purchasing a daily pass, which gives all-day access to the space. Alternatively, monthly memberships are available, which include an array of benefits such as a 20% discount on classes, workshops, and services, access to the space during extended hours, and the ability to sell their display work through The Lamplighters’ online gallery when they rent space in the physical art gallery. The Lamplighters is unique to other Olympia art galleries in the sense that they do not take a commission of any work sold through their gallery.
In order to make their space affordable and accessible, The Lamplighters offers NOTAFLOF (No One Turned Away For Lack Of Funds) nights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, where community members are invited to pay what they can for use of the studio space. Every first, second and third Tuesday nights of the month include free events such as game night, book club and “Darn it All and Stitch,” a crafting circle. The Lamplighters gives downtown employee, student and military discounts, and hopes to soon be able to offer a scholarship program.
“The reason we opened this is to help the community, especially the art community,” Iri says.
Iri shares that before founding The Lamplighters, she had experienced health issues that left her unable to work. Upon thinking about reentering the workforce, she realized how essential it was for her to be engaged with work that she was passionate about, and for her to work in a safe, caring environment, where she was supported and cared for by her work community.
“It’s hard to devote your life to something you don’t care about,” she says. It’s apparent how much love and care has been put into cultivating this space. Similarly, Avalon is a mother to a child with autism, and required a job that allowed her to prioritize her family life when needed.
The name of their business came from the symbol of a lantern, and the association of safety and shelter. “We played off of that to create the Lamplighters, in the hopes that we could create a business that could help light the way for people,” says Iri. “We want to give people an opportunity to grow and learn, and sometimes you need people to help you find those opportunities”.
Since opening their doors, The Lamplighters has been cultivating a creative environment that provides resources and instruction, and fostering a supportive, caring and inspired community of local artists. To view upcoming events and classes, or to learn more about the services offered and pricing, visit The Lamplighters website, follow them on Instagram, or check out their Facebook or Twitter. Alternatively, stop by 211 4th Avenue E during business hours, or call 360-742-3107.