WHO WE ARE
WHAT WE DO
Running With Scissors Art Studios is a closed-door workspace inhabiting over 16,000 square feet in a muraled industrial building in the East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, Maine. A dedicated arts environment, facilities include private studios, open-air studios, associate workspaces, and communal areas and shared equipment. Studio tours and meetings are available by invitation, appointment, and during community events. Visit our Community page to connect with current members and alumni to arrange a viewing, consultation, or commission.
RWS comprises three main departments in print, clay, and wood. The studios are managed by a small staff of seven, including a director, an administrator, department leads, studio technicians, and an intern. Each department is managed and supported by a staff of artists working in their respective departments. Please visit our Staff page to learn more about our team.
Membership consists of over 75 fine artists and craftspeople working in a wide range of media including printmaking, ceramics, woodworking, painting, photography, metalsmithing, textiles, and more. Members possess varying degrees of education and experience and range from emerging to established. All members have access to communal spaces, equipment, and community. The studios’ objective is to help each member reach their independent creative goals.
RWS is owned and directed by Kate Anker who started as a member in 2006. Though it is a registered LLC, the business has a heavy social bottom line. That bottom line is the point.
HOW WE GOT HERE
RWS was founded in 2003 as a collaboration between three art school students, Ariette Scott, Joanne Cameron, and Susie Schweppe. Their first location at 32 Portland Street was a 3-story brick building and former mattress factory at the edge of the then-unknown neighborhood of East Bayside. Legend has it that while rehabilitating the space they opened the walls and discovered pairs and pairs of scissors within.
These first studios were intimate in size and membership and had limited equipment. The studios were loosely defined workspaces that had open-concept equipment areas as well as a fluctuating gallery space. Active in the early days of Portland's First Friday Art Walk, RWS held artist shows, sales, and events that drew the local creative community to its doorsteps while retaining its dedication to community-based, affordable artist workspace. The founding members mission was to encourage the exchange of ideas and sought out artists interested in working together in a creative space.
In the fall of 2006, book artist and printmaker Kate Anker joined as a member after selling her fine edition and restoration bookbinding and letterpress business. A few years later, RWS moved to 54 Cove Street in the heart of the industrial neighborhood of East Bayside. When Kate took ownership in 2011, she expanded into the adjacent space, which was the former JS Ritter jewelry supply store. In doing so, she created space for double the artists.
Portland’s changing climate and increased building turnover at the time was forcing many artists to leave their studios and Anker recognized the growing need for access to equipment and community. There was a particularly large number of ceramics artists in need and artists who lacked the opportunity to grow independently. A couple of years later Anker leased a vacant and derelict building down the street, bringing the seed idea to its current home at 250 Anderson Street. This move quadrupled the size of the original studios and she added and defined the three main departments. She knew the expansion would provide space for more equipment and help artists build more sustainable practices.
Originally called the Bayside Clay Center, the clay department at RWS was established when Anker introduced RWS members and local ceramic artists Christine Caswell and Meg Walsh. Caswell continues to manage the Clay Studio, the largest department at RWS. Printmaker Carter Shappy joined the team in 2015 as the Print Shop Manager after graduating from MECA and acting for a short time as an RWS intern. Shappy shepherded the Print Shop into its better defined state informing key upgrades in equipment and space, and helping to establish the annual Steamy Summer Print Jam, a community block print and art event held outdoors each summer in the RWS parking lot. He later assumed the role of Wood Shop Manager and runs both departments to this day. He can also be seen each year riding the asphalt roller used to press the oversized prints at Print Jam.
Anker and her husband Aaron purchased the building from great supporters of the arts, Alan and Betsy Levenson, in 2021. With it, the Ankers secured a long-term home for professional artists working on the Portland peninsula.
RWS launched the Access Fund in July, 2022 by inviting a small pool of recent graduates nominated by local arts professionals to apply for the inaugural Emerge Artist in Residence program. From the nominees four individuals, two printmakers and two clay artists, were selected for the Summer and Winter sessions in which each artist is granted associate-level membership to the studio and equipment in their respective medium as well as a modest stipend for the purchasing of supplies. The program focuses on merit and need and hopes to support artists making the transition from a student to practicing artist.
These milestones were made possible through the amazing work, dedication, and support from RWS members, staff, interns, volunteers, families and supporters. Community is the backbone of RWS.
Running With Scissors celebrates its 20th year in 2023.
Follow RWS on Instagram (@rwsartstudios) for event information and opportunities to support the studios and its artists.