The FEED Media Art Center on State Street will host residencies and exhibitions

Originally from Erie, Benton Bainbridge is a media artist whose work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Italy, Fundación Juan March in Madrid, Spain and more.

Now he brings his media art expertise to downtown Erie in the form of his FEED Media Art Center at 1307 State St.

The National Endowment for the Arts defines media arts as all genres and forms that use electronic media, film and technology as an artistic medium. This includes projects presented via film, television, radio, audio, video, internet, interactive and mobile technologies, video games, immersive and cross-platform storytelling and satellite broadcasting.

Bainbridge, 56, describes FEED as a center that “supports the creation, exhibition, teaching, preservation and innovation of media arts”.

“This could include sound art, interactive art forms or other forms that can be used for programming or equipment systems to create responsive, generative and immersive media,” he said. declared. “So that’s the goal here; always keep the space as flexible as possible.”

There’s no place like home

Before creating FEED, he was only looking for a space where he could store material from past art installations.

After searching in the Bronx, New York – where he is currently still artist-in-residence at the Andrew Freedman Home – Bainbridge turned his search to Pennsylvania.

“I did a Zillow search of all properties in Pennsylvania $10,000 and under and found a building in Meadville,” he said. “It was amazing and had a lot of benefits. Then I thought to myself…What about Meadville? I’ve only been to Meadville a few times in my life, so I thought I’d watch Erie.”

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This building at 1307 State St. is being renovated to house the FEED Media Art Center in Erie, premiering August 12, 2022.

Originally, Bainbridge left Erie in 1984, but returned to visit family every year. He couldn’t find a building in Erie for $10,000, but 1307 State St. caught his eye.

“When I saw this space, I fell in love with it,” Bainbridge said. “I was like, ‘That sounds crazy,’ but more or less the people who watched it with me were like, ‘That’s crazy, but you’d be crazy not to.'”

“That’s a lot more space than I need to store my televisions, which got me thinking, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s try to do it and open it to other artists, because there is enough space to do it.

The space once housed Epp’s Furniture Company

The building – which once housed Epp’s Furniture Company – is five stories high with nearly 50,000 square feet of floor space, not including the basement.

Rob Shearer III, with Shearer and Son Contracting Services, outlines ongoing work at the FEED Media Art Center at 1307 State Street in Erie on August 12, 2022. Shearer and owner Benton Bainbridge are restoring the building for use as artwork space.

Bainbridge worked in tandem with Rob Shearer III, owner of Shearer and Son Contracting Services, and his team, who began work on the building in January.

“It was filthy and filthy, the floors were all covered in a thick layer of taped-down carpet,” Shearer said. “The more we clean it up and shift it from the walls to the floors, it’s like it’s digging up all this beautiful problem for us to solve.”

As Shearer and his team restore the building, the plans for each space continue to change.

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Bainbridge recognizes that building plans will need to be realistic, but it keeps its options open to whatever possibilities the spaces can offer.

“There’s so much beauty here and so much opportunity to make art that I’ll feel bad if we don’t take advantage of something, even if it has to change for some practical reason,” Bainbridge said. “It will reach an evolutionary plateau and we will enjoy it until the next stage of evolution.”

The map of the FEED Media Art Center

Even as plans change, Bainbridge still has a holistic view for each floor of FEED.

He hopes the first floor at State Street will serve as a public exhibition space.

“Space will forever change and evolve,” he said. “Today we might want to put on a projection that fills this whole wall, but tomorrow we want a video sculpture made out of televisions I salvaged from the streets of Erie, Pennsylvania.”

Original wood floors are being restored on five floors of the FEED Media Art Center at 1307 State Street in Erie on Aug. 12, 2022. Owner Benton Bainbridge and Rob Shearer III, along with Shearer and Son Contracting Services, are restoring the building to serve as an artistic workspace.

The second floor will also be open to the public, but Bainbridge expects it will function primarily as a space where artists in residence will work.

“Some of the technology we need to do what we want to do will be here, but we’ll try to keep most of that space available to create and show art,” Bainbridge said.

The third floor is still subject to many interpretations, but Shearer intends to raise the roof using what he anticipates will be a new type of building technology.

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“Ultimately, the high concept would be to lift the roof, put a roof on a roof, dry it out, and selectively remove the interior so that we have a 24-foot clear ceiling height on the third floor on State Street, which is quite unique.”

The rear of the third floor, as well as the fourth and fifth floors, will potentially serve as private spaces for Bainbridge in FEED.

Besides storage space, the rear half of the third floor is expected to become a temporary living space for visiting artists.

“Let’s say it will take an artist two weeks to create an installation and then exhibit it for 30 days,” Shearer said. “They would have a place to stay while they pull this stuff out. It’s a cool challenge because we’re introducing something that’s not multi-family housing or an apartment, but brings life together in an otherwise commercial setting. “

The fourth floor will become an archive space, housing all the media art made at FEED.

Finally, the fifth-floor loft, located approximately 61 feet above Commerce Street, is set to become Bainbridge’s future home. It has several bricked windows, which Shearer hopes to restore to create a wall of glass.

Involve the community

FEED Media Art Center will not be complete for several years. Until then, Bainbridge has transformed the building’s garage on Commerce Street into a pop-up exhibition space for artists and the public to engage now.

“It’s important to understand that there’s still a limit to what we can do,” Bainbridge said.

Bainbridge hosted a soft opening of FEED at his garage in early August, where he showcased media art by artists from the Erie area and around the world.

Bainbridge emphasized that FEED will be a center specifically dedicated to media arts. Erie is home to a number of creative spaces, such as The 1020 Collective, Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA), Erie Center for Arts and Technology (ECAT), and many others. But Bainbridge’s goal is to create a whole new space dedicated to media arts, a venture he thinks Erie can support.

“We’ve been a destination for a long time, although we locals often like to make fun of our city,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is a pride in this place that is contagious. We are reaching a critical mass where there is enough culture that people come back during the cold months to enjoy all the culture we have to offer.”

Bainbridge hopes his center will help people better understand and appreciate media art.

“Those of us in our twenties and older came from an underground global movement that must have incubated for half a century before it was widely appreciated,” he said. “Media artists appreciate being part of this global community. Many more of us are happy to meet Erieites and share their art and knowledge.”

Neighborhood of Little Italy, it offers tenants a warehouse, an office, a studio and common areas. It is currently occupied by an advertising agency, an artist who creates handmade national park posters and artwork, and an industrial, mid-century modern antique store.

Location: 1909 Chestnut St., Erie

Get in touch: Rachel McCreary, [email protected]

Related:How The Shop at 19th and Chestnut brings life to Little Italy

Baylee DeMuth can be reached at 814-450-3425 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @BayleeDeMuth.

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