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Alumna-owned art studio strives for accessibility

Alumna-owned art studio strives for accessibility

Alumna-owned art studio strives for accessibility
July 07
13:00 2022

Moving across the spaces of Denton Workbench, owner and university alumna Caron Dessoye interacts with faces old and new. She jokes that the studio has selfishly allowed her to create her own art community. In reality, its members are what form the real heart of the space. 

“Just to be able to have those conversations with folks who are just starting their journey in art or are already established artists has been wonderful,” Dessoye said. 

Dessoye, a Pennsylvania native, received a graduate degree in metalsmithing and jewelry from the university in 2020. After graduating, she decided to stay in Denton and open a business to support her art community. She wanted to have a space to reach out to folks and get them to learn about art and participate in selling their work.

With the help of a Kickstarter and a Greater Denton Arts Council microgrant, Dessoye received funding for Workbench from both her Denton and Pennsylvania communities. She said this support further encouraged her to work toward the studio, which officially opened last October.

A collection of local business cards hangs in the Denton Workbench on July 1, 2022. Matt Iaia

Located at 813 N. Locust St., Workbench now offers classes for artists with skill sets ranging from beginner to advanced. In addition to a space used to sell local artists’ work, the studio houses equipment and supplies for Denton’s metals, clay and fibers crafting friends.

“We have a little bit of everything going on at all times,” Dessoye said. “No day is the same.”

Dessoye’s favorite part of Workbench is the environment she has created from it. She wants Workbench to allow others across her community to express themselves. By providing these spaces, she believes local artists can feel more appreciated and seen.

“We want to create a community here for artists to feel safe, to feel welcome,” Dessoye said. “But we also want to reach out into the community to make sure we’re supporting art elsewhere.”

Benjamin Statser, Workbench ceramic studio coordinator and university alumnus, has worked at the studio since spring 2022. He said the studio’s fresh, yet welcoming atmosphere has made it a valuable space for those seeking community. Statser believes getting to work hands-on with those searching for that connection is what makes Workbench so special.

“It’s really rewarding for me just seeing people’s excitement when they create something,” Statser said. “Being able to provide that access is really rewarding for myself.”

Benjamin Statser shapes a clay bowl at the Denton Workbench on July 1, 2022. Matt Iaia

Dessoye’s main goal is to continue offering that open access to her community. She said she is excited to expand Workbench’s availability, no matter what it may look like. From access for those with learning disabilities to others in queer communities, Dessoye feels artistic outlets should readily fit the needs of those who need them. Through Workbench, she hopes to expand the presence of such spaces in Denton.

“Whether people realize it or not, we have a very strong art community already, and I think it’s important to keep up with that,” Dessoye said. “We’ve got to recognize those folks and keep them close. Keep Denton awesome.”

More so than just artists, Dessoye feels this accessibility and the connections formed from it are essential for all local groups.

“I think you can take out the art,” Dessoye said. “I mean, why is it so essential to have community? We need it for general support, but we also want to find like-minded folks. We want to feel like what we’re doing matters.”

Gillian Hernandez, Workbench studio manager and university alumna, has seen a wide range of local artists and characters participate in the studio and its programs. She believes Denton’s own unique character and people have added their own special qualities to Workbench.

“It’s all of the different arts that all come together, so that makes it really cool to collaborate with people who aren’t necessarily just in art,” Hernandez said. “It’s a wider umbrella than I thought it would ever be here in Denton.”

While Workbench’s run has not gone without its financial obstacles post-COVID-19 peak, Dessoye said she is still fully committed to giving back to Denton’s artists. As the studio works toward becoming more adaptable, she does not anticipate it becoming stagnant any time soon. She said she has a good feeling about Workbench’s future growth and cannot wait to see what other new artists can add to its environment.

“It’s been challenging, but the support I’m getting from the community, from my family or my friends has really helped push us forward,” Dessoye said. “I see good things happening and I hope to continue to see them happen. I think they will.”

Featured Image: Caron Dessoye poses with hammers in her art studio on June 28, 2022. Photo by Daniel Pope

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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