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Birthday brings big life change for North County arts venue

You Are My Reflection by Erin Rachel Hudak. Installed with the help of St. Louis Community College students at Paul Artspace
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
You Are My Reflection by Erin Rachel Hudak is currently on display at Paul Artspace in unincorporated north St. Louis County.

A North County arts venue is undergoing a dramatic change on the eve of its third birthday.

For the past two years, artists and curators who have been accepted as residents at Paul Artspace have paid to spend months on-site using studios and tools. From now on, those residencies will be free.

"By removing that cost, it opens up the possibility to many more people that might not have been able to participate,” said Michael Behle, one of the organization’s founders.

Paul Artspace is located in an old residential house and includes a kitchen and bedrooms. During a residency, an artist has access to painting, sculpture and printmaking studios as well as exhibition space. Participating artists and curators can use the space for free, but they must give back to the surrounding communities through lectures, classes or workshops. Although the space seems like something found on Cherokee Street, Behle wants the new model to open up dialogue with the cities of Ferguson, Florissant and Black Jack. There's no other program quite like this in the area.

“It’s that very baseline of culture, of expression, of invention, of exchange of ideas and knowledge that we hope to cultivate,” he said.

Behle is currently working with youth outreach programs like Citizen Carpentry and writing groups like Night Writers STL to develop ways for other area artists to get involved with Paul Artspace.

The organization will offer two residency programs—one for curators and one for visual artists and writers. The group is now taking applications from local, national and international candidates.

Two artists reflect on their residencies at Paul Artspace.

Follow Willis Ryder Arnold on Twitter: @WillisRArnold