Yellow Studio, a new community for female creatives, opens in Cross River

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Tina Villaveces, Yellow Studio's Founder and Director (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Imagine a welcoming environment catering to female art aficionados in Westchester who crave creative collaboration. Yellow Studio, located in Cross River’s Yellow Monkey Village, is a new space with a creative trifecta, an offering that’s exclusively for women; an art gallery, a shared workspace, and a social/educational community.

With a diverse background as a registrar at commercial art galleries as well as a resume that includes early childhood education, founder and director of Yellow Studio Tina Villaveces recently realized that it was time to try something different that would marry her talents. The major goal? To invite and empower local women artists of all mediums including painters, sculptors, writers, designers, and more.

In the parking garage at a Target, of all places, the idea for Yellow Studio was born when a friend of Villaveces asked her over the phone, “have you ever thought about opening an art gallery?” Villaveces had been interviewing for jobs and nothing was exactly what she had in mind. The question was an invitation, permission for this lifelong creative spirit to scratch an itch to develop a space that would both showcase and cultivate creativity.

As someone who both attended and returned to teach at Marymount, an all-girls Catholic grade school across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, art is sutured in Villaveces’ DNA. While she swears she’s not an artist (but please, don’t tell her three-year-old son), art has always been a part of her life. Villaveces recalls many instances in her Advanced Placement Art History class in which she and fellow classmates would study photographic slides of famous artwork. Their teacher, feeling that the photo did the piece of art no justice, would abruptly say, “ladies, grab your jackets..let’s run across the street [to the MET].”

“That was life,” Villaveces says laughing, pulling her clear, round glasses from her face. “We’d look at the real thing and come back [to class].” It’s no wonder art is embedded in her bones. In college, she considered English and Psychology but settled on Art History as her major. During a study abroad semester, she lived just two blocks from the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum. “All of it has led to this,” she explains.

Originally projected to be named “The Studio,” Villaveces changed the business name when she found a promising space with an interesting configuration of rooms in the back of one of the buildings at Cross River’s Yellow Monkey Village. The uniquely named village of shops off Route 35 inspired her. “Yellow is a happy color. It is symbolic of friendship... it’s just a good color,” says Villaveces.

“I walked in [to the space], and my eyes started welling with tears,” Villaveces says. While she initially wasn’t sure she was even prepared to sign a lease, she saw potential among the vacant, gray walls. Villaveces presented a lengthy write-up of her business plan to Tia Cibani, her soon-to-be landlord and founder of TiA CiBANi childrenswear boutique, also located inside Yellow Monkey Village. Cibani was welcoming and receptive to Villavece’s vision. “It happened organically,” Villaveces says, “and if it wasn’t for her [Cibani], and being so generous, I don’t know that this would’ve happened.”

In February of 2022, the lease was signed and the wheels were set in motion for Yellow Studio to open to the public with three major visions; an art gallery, a shared workspace, and a social /educational community. Villaveces even set out to provide a residency program, all reserved for local, creative women. The studio’s slogan “Women. Art. Ideas,” would marry each component together within its artistic community.

“The art gallery is the passion piece for me,” Villaveces explains excitedly. “I never loved the idea that a traditional gallery commission was a 50/50 split.” However, she knew that if she was setting out to give artists a greater percentage of profit, she needed additional offerings to generate revenue.

Inside Yellow Studio's shared workspace (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

After giving much thought and investigating the needs of her community, Villaveces decided a shared workspace would be the next piece of her business plan. “In past lives, I have been someone who sits in a coffee shop and works all day. Even if I wasn’t socializing, I needed to be around other people,” Villaveces confesses. With so many women working from home throughout the pandemic, it was important for her to provide a space where, for instance, mothers could avoid “packing up their paintings to keep them away from their toddler's hands.”

As Villaveces began discussing her business with friends and artists alike, proximity to other creatives proved to be what many have been craving. The shared workspace includes individual desks as well as communal tables and a conference room. Villaveces even converted a closet in the residency studio into a call room, which serves as a quiet, private room where Zoom meetings can happen and “nursing mothers can pump in private.”

“I want people to feel comfortable everywhere in the space, but if they need privacy, there will be a space for that,” Villaveces says.

Yellow Studio Founder and Director Tina Villaveces at her desk (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Beyond the art gallery and the shared workspace, Villaveces wanted to provide even more of a community and educational experience for local women. Thus, the social/educational component of her business was born. Villaveces felt that she could offer women a creative pursuit that they might not have tried before. Creative learning workshops as well as talks given by creative professionals, and monthly happy hours where members can connect are all part of Yellow Studio’s social experience.

Beginning July 5, Yellow Studio will also host two residents, a painter and a visual artist. Yellow Residency will foster creativity while supporting the creation of art-making in a private or semi-private studio space. Residencies last for one to three months and Yellow Studio will accept applications for new creatives come October. Villaveces’ major goal with the residency program is to cultivate connection in light of the solitary nature of making art. As far as mediums go, Villaveces says, “I want to keep it open. Even though visual arts are what speaks to me the most, I want to make sure that all creative women feel that they can be a part of this. Anything creative goes with the residency application.”

Villaveces acknowledges that each aspect of the business might sound different from one another, but says that “even though they’re seemingly disparate things, there is a connection. The business is everything that speaks to me, and I feel like people will come.”

Perhaps the most resonating advice Villaveces has received comes from psychic/mystic Gina Fuschetto, who gave a reading at Yellow Studio’s inaugural happy hour on June 30th. Without prompting, she shared with Villaveces, “you’re setting out to do something that to outsiders might seem like too many things in one place, but for you it makes sense, so listen to that. They might not get it yet, but they will get it because you’re going to get it right.”

Yellow Studio’s shared workspace is open, and the first gallery show featuring artist Stephanie Land will be on Saturday, July 9. Monthly membership options include access to member-only events, networking events, shared workspace passes, and more.

Local women gathering at Yellow Studio inaugural happy hour (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)
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