TreeHouse becomes a haven for artists
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Jesse Hambley's latest venture may be a little difficult to describe, but his passion for it isn't.
The 23-year-old from Slippery Rock is the driving energy behind transforming the second floor of the old G.C. Murphy building in Bellevue into the Creative TreeHouse, a work space and gathering place for artists of all types.
"We want people to think of Bellevue -- and through Bellevue, Pittsburgh -- as a creative town," Mr. Hambley said.
He described the Creative TreeHouse in a number of ways: a shared studio, an educational center, a place for artists to meet clients.
Since January, he has been working nights on the 517521 Building on Lincoln Avenue, the new name for the old G.C. Murphy space. He finds time for the project while working full time as a multimedia designer for a local furniture company.
The first phase of the venture called for holding art shows. In February, a 24-hour creative marathon was held in which artists worked in the studio for 24 hours, then displayed and sold their artwork.
"We had close to 60 artists here," Mr. Hambley said. An art show to raise funds for a school in Africa also has been held.
Artists of all types can join the Creative TreeHouse. For a monthly fee of $25, they get 24-hour access to the studio space, where they can work, meet clients and network for other artists.
Mr. Hambley hopes to set up interviewing sessions for companies to meet with artists.
"Say a company needs a Web designer. We can set up four or five of our members to meet with them and take bids. It will service the companies and our members," he said.
He also hopes to offer educational programs for artists, companies and community members. "Maybe one of our members could teach a workshop on using HTML and another about photography." he said. "We could also bring in a lawyer to talk about media law, things you don't learn in college: How to write a contract, how to keep yourself legit."
Mr. Hambley, who started a clothing company when he was in high school, has an associate degree in multimedia technology from Pittsburgh Technical Institute.
He was working in Greensburg when he got the idea behind the Creative TreeHouse.
"I was involved in the film series there and the Laurel Highlands Arts and Film Festival. I was doing all sorts of things -- photography, video editing -- and I started looking around for a place to do something like this," he said.
As he explored options, he realized a location closer to Pittsburgh might be a better place for the venture, and a friend pointed him to the 517521 Building. It helped that the owners of the building, Sabatino DiBattista and Andy Rubacky, believed in the project as well.
The two have been behind the revitalization of Bellevue, opening the Vivo restaurant and other businesses that include a coffee shop and vintage store. When they heard Mr. Hambley's ideas, they knew of the perfect space for him -- the second floor of 517521. The site had been used by the Think Tank, a shared work space, and it was roomy enough for all of Mr. Hambley's projects.
"The space works out really well for Jesse and the culture that he is reaching out to. It is an interesting place for artists," Mr. DiBattista said.
Mr. Hambley agreed. "The building was built in 1870 and has a vintage feel to it."
The location turned out to be the impetus behind the name.
Mr. Hambley was giving a tour of the place to Josh Sager, a friend and former teacher. Mr. Hambley pointed out the hardwood floors, views from the second floor and open spaces.
"This is like a creative tree house," Mr. Sager said.
"What did you say?" Mr. Hambley asked.
The place had been named.
Mr. Sager believes that the Creative TreeHouse is an idea whose time has come.
"Jesse has already made a difference. We are seeing a crossover between traditional artists and digital artists, and Jesse has helped to connect everyone," he said.
"It is just a really cool place for artists to hang out. It's a place that is needed here."
So far, Mr. DiBattista is impressed with Mr. Hambley's efforts. "I am amazed at what he's been able to do. Jesse has been able to bring in young, creative people to this area," he said.
Mr. Hambley hopes eventually to expand.
"People are coming together in different cities and we have some interest in Baltimore and Chicago for this same type of thing," he said.
"But our focus is on Pittsburgh. We want people to say, 'Look at the creative work coming out of Pittsburgh!' "
For more information about the Creative TreeHouse, visit www.creativetreehousepgh.com.
First Published May 24, 2007 6:12 am