After 20 years, Flatbed Press loses its lease — and so do a dozen galleries & studios

The former warehouse was the first gallery hub to emerge in East Austin

The Flatbed Press building on E. MLK, Jr. Blvd opened as a gallery and studio hub in 1999.

After nearly 20 years, Flatbed Press is losing the lease to its 18,400-square-foot building in East Austin. The current lease expires at the end of February 2019.

The sprawling former shoe warehouse on East Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. is also home to several well-known galleries, artists studios and arts-related businesses.

Flatbed is just the latest arts venue pushed out and effectively closed by rapid development and escalating real estate prices in East Austin.

“This early need to relocate will force a difficult change for Flatbed given the real estate climate in Austin,” said Katherine Brimberry, Flatbed co-founder and director. “Originally the lease was to be extended through 2021, but Flatbed was given notice late last month that the extension would no longer be available.”

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The building is owned by Dallas-based Rosenfield Brothers Real Estate Group. The property has a Travis County tax roll value of $3,416,546 for 2017, the last year assessed. That’s about 120 percent more than what the property was assessed at just four years ago when the county appraisal board set the 2013 tax value at $1,551,118.

Flatbed originally leased the raw warehouse space in 1999 and smartly transformed it into a place to that could house multiple galleries and studios. Once dubbed “Flatbed World Headquarters” it was essentially the first gallery hub to emerge in East Austin.

Over the years it’s been to home many galleries that were instrumental in bolstering Austin’s visual arts scene during the aughts like the Creative Research Laboratory, an off-campus initiative of UT.

The building is currently home to 12 tenants including Camiba Art, Recspec Gallery and Gallery Shoal Creek, Austin’s oldest established art gallery. The place is also currently home to the Austin Book Art Center and the Smith and Hawley Press, a letterpress and design studio. Other tenants include studio artists, film makers and architects.

Flatbed Press employs a staff of seven. It’s currently showing a solo show of prints by James Surls.

Launched in 1989 in long-gone building on the west edge of downtown Austin, Flatbed built into a nationally-recognized fine arts press. The  roster of artists who have worked on its presses include Robert Rauschenberg, John Alexander, Liliana Porter, Terry Allen, Michael Ray Charles, Luis Jimenez, Julie Speed and Trenton Doyle Hancock.

UT Press published a richly illustrated retrospective “Flatbed Press at 25” in 2016.

Julie Speed, “The Economists.” Chine collé multiple plate polymer gravure with gouache handcoloring. Edition of 40. 2015

Said Brimberry in a release: “We want to continue our work and truly desire to find a space that can house not only our studio and gallery but other studios and art businesses who focus on art on paper. We want to continue being a place where the public can enjoy seeing and purchasing contemporary prints. A relocation may give us an opportunity to expand and create a center for works on paper. We are looking for partners to help us realize this vision.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Here in Athens GA we are advocating for a rezone of shopping center parcels, both open air and the Georgia Square Mall (the local enclosed regional mall) to allow art production/studio/gallery and music studio space. There is a glut of retail space outside downtown. Perhaps this might be an option for Austin too.

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