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When artist L. Robert Stanfield moved from Savannah to Hilton Head Island two and a half years ago, all he wanted was a little space.'
Moving his studio and gallery, called Stanfield In The Works, he settled on a spot at the Village Exchange on Palmetto Bay Road in April of 2000. '
Now, almost a year and a half later, he's taken over two more spaces at the shopping complex and is fulfilling a lifelong dream.'
With a gallery, a day studio, a library and a "secret garden," Stanfield's original gallery has become a creative center for artists and aspiring artists alike. '
"This started with my studio here," Stanfield, 34, said. "(The center) was actually a vision I had when I was in Savannah. During my first year here, I couldn't find my niche, so I created it. '
"Now, this is an artist's village of sorts. This is an artist's playhouse." '
The "playhouse" is staffed by about a dozen volunteers who do everything from cleaning and locking up at night to assisting in the day studio and gallery. '
In addition to volunteers, "member artists" also help in the studio and gallery and teach workshops at the center. The artists pay a monthly fee in return for a space to work and store their materials. '
The center's day studio -- Picasso's Corner -- is open to the public. For a fee, plus the cost of materials, people can do "walk in and create" projects that are simple and require little instruction. '
Member and stain glass artist John Nichols, who moved to the Lowcountry about two and a half years ago, said he was looking for a studio space when he met Stanfield. Sharing Stanfield's vision, he became a member and teaches at the center. '
"What's nice is you can use designs and many books for reference," said Nichols, referring to the library on the premises that has everything from old record albums to arts books.'
Nichols, who's been making stain glass art for nearly 30 years, also said he enjoys the day studio's atmosphere.'
"There's this creative energy," he said. '
With artists skilled in every medium from oil painting to ceramics, woodworking and stain glass art, sculpting, photography and even cooking, Stanfield said he learns something new every day. '
"It inspires me," he said. "I love having the freedom to do what I want, and I encourage others to do that too."'
Stanfield said the center is a place where anyone is welcome to let their creative side come out. '
"I just want people to be able to come in and experience true creativity any way they can," Stanfield said. "It's exploring your spiritual creativity. We like 'different' around here."'
In the gallery section of the center -- which features functional art, paintings, sculptures and photographs -- people can participate in a variety of workshops, including culinary demonstrations. '
On a recent afternoon, painter Brucie Holler led a workshop called "Painting from the Soul." During the class, participants explore painting through color, emotions and their personal experiences. '
"It's an expression or way of painting that frees you from expectations and technique," Holler said. "It frees the creative spirit that everyone has in them. It's liberating, transformative expression. It's fun."'
Taking a break from their painting, Holler's students stepped over to the cooking bar, also in the gallery, where chef Christine Bohn had all the ingredients to prepare a sushi rice salad. Bohn runs her own catering business and teaches culinary classes at the center. '
"I've been catering most of my life," Bohn said. "But I just love it here. It's fun to sit in an art gallery and do dinner or lunch."'
In addition to the studio, gallery and workshops, Stanfield In The Works has an Academy of Visual Arts Education program. He has partnered with the International Academy on Hilton Head to provide art instruction to students. '
The program is an extensive study in the visual arts, based on Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way." Stanfield said he not only teaches the young artists technique, he helps them prepare a portfolio for college.'
"I think that creating a broad portfolio is really important," Stanfield said, adding that he's not only teaching "old school art," he's teaching computer-aided graphic art and design.'
Stanfield, who graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 1987, said he works in every medium from oil painting to woodworking. Inspired by Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Picasso, Van Gogh and his mother, Stanfield said he enjoys creating functional art, such as artistic furniture. '
As for the future, Stanfield said many additions are slated for the center, including a dark room and more equipment for graphic design, video editing and an area for creating textiles. '
"It's just evolving," Stanfield said. "A lot of things happen by accident, but we make things happen."'
Stanfield In The Works is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. '
For a complete calendar of workshops or for more information, call 842-2600 or visit www.stanfieldintheworks.com.