Mainframe Studios is a hub for creatives

As a glassblower in a rural Northwest Iowa town Jesse Bogenrief wanted to tap into a bigger market with new customers.

He just needed to find a space that was affordable enough to do it.

So three months ago he moved from Spencer to Des Moines and now rents a studio in the basement of Mainframe Studios in downtown Des Moines.

He says rent is nearly $2,500 a month for his studio space that also serves as a gallery.

“This space has been so tantalizing because it’s been in the works for a while,” he says. “And one of the things I love about this building, compared to some of the places I looked at, was the quality. It really feels like I’m part of something really nice here.”

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A coworking space for artists

Mainframe Studios is a nonprofit organization that provides artists with affordable workspace. An open house and ribbon cutting ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon to introduce the public to the space. So far, 65 artists representing 24 mediums have 60 studios on three floors.

Four art-related nonprofit organizations will have offices on the ground floor along with a 4,700 square foot event space.

Mainframe Studios Director Siobhan Spain said they prioritize offering permanent, affordable workspace for artists. Artists pay $7 per square foot for rent.

Spain said they received ownership of the 160,000 square foot building at 900 Keosauqua Way in 2014. The building was purchased from Century Link and used to be a call center that also housed Mainframe Computers.

“What we wanted to do was get the first phase done, so people can at least see the vision in person,” Spain says. “And then continue with the next two phases.”

Spain says eventually Mainframe Studios will get up to 180 studios. A wait list has formed for the second phase.

“It’s certainly a hub,” Spain says.

Artists who have space in the studio have access 24 hours a day and can host their own workshops or educational classes in their studio space.

Spain said 20 percent of the artists are from out-of-town.

“We’re really relying on the artists to be part of this building and what makes this hum,” Spain said. “We’re taking the artists seriously enough that they take themselves serious enough. They have the opportunity to see themselves as entrepreneurs as much as they want to.”

Bogenrief. 41, says being around so many other artists, will help his business.

Just last year he hosted 280 classes.

“One of the things I’ve always had is someone comes to visit someone else and mine is such a visually exciting art form to watch,” Bogenrief explains. “That’s why I have bleachers. People will come to this building for one thing and get to see a whole bunch of different things.”

Matt Corones is a painter will travel from Ames to use the space inside Mainframes Studios.

His studio is on the fourth floor.

“The community is great because there are a lot of people interested in art around, it’s a hub for creativity and production,” Corones, 38, said. ”

Spain says it’s similar to the Gravitate coworking space, but for artists.

“I see the tech community having similar traits to the art community,” Spain says. “Both are innovators, they need affordable space to innovate and experiment, they’re open, thirsty for information and want community.”

Spain hopes the construction can be completed by 2019, but it depends on the amount of funding Mainframes Studios receives.

“I have people, it’s just a matter of getting funding,” Spain says.