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New artist-focused co-working space set to open in Columbia’s Cottontown neighborhood

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The location of the soon-to-open NOMA Warehouse

It’s not even officially open yet, but Mazie Cook has a sweeping vision for NOMA Warehouse, the 4,500 square foot building she co-owns. The plan for the arts-focused co-working space in the heart of the increasingly bustling Cottontown neighborhood along North Main Street would eventually include up to 100 artists working in multiple disciplines in various studio spaces.

“I was really inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory,” Cook said, referring to the famed pop artist’s sprawling New York studio. “What I loved about it is that it was a space for artists that was open and free and there to collaborate no matter what kind of art that they did. This space really lends itself to anything from painting to photography to music video to live shows.”

The space at 2222 Sumter St. was formerly home to the gift shop A Taste of the South.

Cook, who serves as creative director for NOMA Warehouse and co-owns the building with her mother-in-law, Beth Lawson, said she has a lifelong passion for the arts, up to and including her college degree, and that’s what fueled her desire to open a studio.

“I have grown up in the arts world,” she explained. “My dad is an artist, and I actually went to USC, and my degree is in Studio Art. So I just felt very inspired to create a space that reinvents how art is shared.

“I feel like we've gotten very comfortable with a single version of how we look at the arts and think about art, and so my hope with the Warehouse is that it brings art together that is different and fun, and at the same time we can make it accessible to everyone and provide what artists need to really thrive and do what they love.”

Cook noticed that the space on Sumter Street was available shortly after she graduated in 2020, and was immediately interested.

“It just felt like there was room for opportunity, and I jumped on it,” she offered. “It had a vibe I was really drawn to. I felt that with everything it had to offer, it was going to be the perfect fit for what I had in my head. Also, the (North Main) area is growing, and there’s a really cool crowd over here, lots of artists in the neighborhood.”

For her part, Lawson, NOMA Warehouse’s executive director, said she was inspired by Cook’s passion.

“I respect her so much as an artist and as a creative person with great ideas,” Lawson enthused. “So when she shared with me that this building was open and what she had envisioned for it, I thought, ‘We can totally make it happen.’”

Lawson and Cook have far-reaching plans for the Warehouse, which they’re hoping to officially launch in late April.

“The space is so big and open and easy for us to upfit,’ Lawson said. “There’s also this really cool retail space that we’re building out front. So not only will artists have a place to work, but we can also help them market and sell their work and give them an office space where they can meet with their customers and clients. I’m really excited to watch this grow for any of the creators that join us at the warehouse.”

Of course, since we still live in the age of COVID-19, Lawson and Cook have incorporated safety measures into their plans while preparing the building. That applies to both the artists and those who are interested in checking out their work.

“We wanted something where we could spread people out and have good airflow and really be cautious of health and wellness and safety,” Lawson assured.

“We are trying to be very conscious of COVID,” Cook added. “We’re going to keep people distanced, and masks will be required. But we want it to be open to the public as much as possible while respecting our artists’ needs.”

Lawson saId that artists are already contacting her and Cook about setting up studio space at NOMA Warehouse in the spring. Like Cook, she feels the location has a lot to do with that.

“There are tons of great places to eat in this neighborhood,” she reasoned. “There’s a lot of live music around here. It’s a place where you can create and experience art, a place for the community to come in and share the experience with us.”

The ultimate point, though, is to create a space that supports local creatives.

“I want to make sure artists are succeeding,” Cook concluded. “I don’t believe in ‘starving artists.’ I hate that term. So I’d love to really show people a whole different side of artists and makers and express the value in them and show people everything they can be.”

Post and Courier Columbia/Free Times arts coverage is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation.

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