DARLA JACKSON, 32, of Fishtown, is owner and general manager of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym. Jackson, a Moore College of Art & Design grad and a sculptor, won a $20,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant in 2011 to raise money to open the facility on Frankford Avenue near Berks Street. It provides 7,500 square feet of space where dues-paying members have access to band saws, drill presses and welding equipment.
Q: How'd the biz idea originate?
A: I thought it would be great if we had space where everybody shared equipment and paid monthly memberships. I pitched the idea to the Knight Arts Challenge in October 2010.
Q: The grant had to be matched, right?
A: We raised $2,000 at small arts fairs, then did a Kickstarter campaign that brought in $10,000, and an anonymous donor gave us $10,000.
Q: Why's it called a gym?
A: It operates like a gym membership when you want to work out but don't want to buy your own StairMaster or elliptical machine. We also have lockers for storage, and we do training.
Q: How much are dues?
A: We offered charter memberships to get support up front. Those are unlimited and cost $100 a month. Since opening, we have three membership levels: $25 a day for space, $225 a month for unlimited full access and $125 a month for three days a week.
Q: How many members?
A: We have 50 charter members, and three light-use members.
Q: When did you open?
A: The workshop spaces opened at the end of June. A year ago, we opened a gallery that feeds people into the space and gives [artists] a chance to showcase their work.
Q: Do members have day jobs?
A: A lot of them do, and come here at night - we're open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday - but there are a few who do this for a living who are here in the day. We have sculptors, woodworkers, welders, metalworkers and ceramicists.
Q: How many employees?
A: We have four managers, but everybody is working as a volunteer until we see a profit. Right now, everybody is being compensated with space and time. We have 12 people monitoring equipment use and working for their memberships.
Q: Where do you see the sculpture gym in five years?
A: I hope we'll have newer equipment and a blacksmith shop, jewelry area, larger classroom and expanded studio space. Right now we have 16 studios.
Q: What about training classes?
A: Currently, five classes a month, ranging from $60 to $125.
Q: What about studio fees?
A: It's $100 a month for a 50-square-foot studio.
Q: How big a business is this?
A: We're still figuring it out, but I expect this year we'll do revenue of $75,000 to $100,000.
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