On a rainy morning in Midtown Jackson, artist Clay Hardwick nursed a cup of coffee and surveyed the space that he is converting into the new TurnUp Studios. The ongoing work mirrors his basic creative philosophy — moving from chaos to control.
“The place was full of old, stored items when I first got here,” said Hardwick, 27, as he put his coffee cup down next to half-empty bottle of Pepto Bismol. “I still have a lot of work left to do before we officially open.”
A lot of work, perhaps, but Hardwick is living the dream of expanding his career while for the first time enjoying the freedom of concentrating almost exclusively on his art.
Hardwick became fascinated with fine arts as a child. He was particularly interested in abstract art, influenced heavily by the work and philosophy of artist Wassily Kandinsky.
Photography also consumed him. Hardwick got his first digital camera at age 12, finding a love for images and photographic manipulation. That evolved into video and filmmaking, and his course was set.
After graduating from high school, Hardwick ventured out of state to a fine arts college, but soon realized that he was more interested in liberal arts.
“I wanted to study language, philosophy,” he said.
So, he transferred to Millsaps College where he graduated in 2009 in studio art, and he was one of the first Millsaps students to concentrate in digital art.
Hardwick spent the next years bouncing between freelancing (graphic design, web site design) and employment, including with Mississippi Public Broadcasting. However, he landed a freelancing job with a large national retail chain, and the money he earned allowed him to quit his “day job” in December and start shopping for a venue for TurnUp Studios.
In June, Hardwick found his place, a 2,200-square-foot facility at 155 Wesley Avenue in Midtown Jackson.
“This is actually a much nicer space than I hoped to get,” Hardwick said. “The other spaces were mainly old warehouses.”
He feels the area is the perfect place for TurnUp Studios. Midtown was designated an arts district back in the 1980s, a designation that, ironically, his father, Phil Hardwick, played a role in landing. The area thrived as a place for artists for years before declining. But it is seeing a renaissance — other new artist-tenants have moved in next door to TurnUp Studios since Hardwick’s arrival.
The new business will officially open this weekend during the Midtown Holiday Studio Tours, but TurnUp Studios is already working. The day of the interview for this story Hardwick was preparing for a music video session for a local band. The videos are called “TurnUp Sessions,” highlighting local, up-and-coming musical acts, and Hardwick said he hopes to land sponsorships for the sessions and grow that business.
Music is a large part of TurnUp Studios as Hardwick sublets space to local musician Jamie Weems. He also is subletting space to visual artist daniel johnson.
“I love having them here,” Hardwick said. “daniel and I critique each other’s work, and I can just sit and listen to Jamie and the musicians for hours. It would be kind of sterile here with out them.”
While Hardwick is freer now to concentrate on his art, there is still the business side of things. He admits that it is a tough balancing act between being financially sound and being what he called a “sold-out artist.”
He credits his father with helping him on the business-side while adding his mother, Carol Hardwick, who recently retired as executive director of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, was where his love for art originated.
His future goals are more centered toward TurnUp Studios than his career.
“I just hope that when or if I leave here, it will continue on without me,” Hardwick said. “I see it as an incubator.”
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