The Finesse Center Gives St. Louis Artists A New Space For Creativity

The arts community in St. Louis is one of the most dynamic in the region, continuously adapting and re-inventing itself with new creative entrepreneurial visions from its most ambitious citizens. For 23-year-old Kayla Thompson, the wave of support from friends, family, peers and the community at large allowed her—along with her close friend and partner Ashley Nicole Johnson—to create one of the most unique co-working arts spaces the city has ever seen.

The Finesse Center is the first affordable, membership-based co-working arts space in St. Louis, with multiple resources specifically tailored to meet the needs of local artists, freelancers and entrepreneurs across fields and experience. Named after Thompson’s late brother, artist and graphic designer Tyrell “Rell Finesse” Thompson, the Center is set to offer everything from desk space and art supplies to workshops on marketing, branding, pitching and more—all assets that allow an artist to develop his or her craft and establish a career. Memberships grant 24-hour access to the space, located on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

In addition to being a co-working space, the center is decorated with Tyrell Thompson’s one-of-a-kind work as a remarkable tribute to Thompson’s older brother, a graphic designer at local startup LockerDome who was killed this past summer. Tyrell was known to many in St. Louis as a generous and experienced mentor, designing original work for multiple up-and-coming local artists over the last decade. His wide-reaching legacy now takes the shape of the Finesse Center, set to officially open its doors on January 2, 2017.

ALIVE: What makes the Finesse Center different from other co-working spaces in St. Louis?
Kayla Thompson: It’s specifically for artists. And it’s not just for those artists who are already established; it’s for those artists that are struggling, still trying to find their way. Maybe artists that are still couch-surfing, artists that forget to eat because they’re working all day on their art. The artists that still haven’t gotten their big break. It’s made for the community. It’s for us, by us.

How is the Center inspired by Tyrell’s art, his legacy and the kind of person he was?
It really came from us kind of thinking, “What would Tyrell have needed if he didn’t get his big break?” Tyrell struggled as an artist for a very long time. And I guess when you see him or when you think about him, you probably don’t know that or wouldn’t even picture that, but he was the one that was couch-surfing, the one that [didn’t have his own place] for a long time.

What’s your vision for the Finesse Center a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
I imagine the Finesse Center getting big. My big goal is to buy a school and to actually have classrooms for all the resources we’ll provide here. So instead of you needing to go check out the laser projector or check out an easel, we would have a whole room full of easels where you can just paint. Or a room just for graphic design, a room just for dance, a room just for writing. But also a gym for you to chill out and kick it. And a café for you to eat in. Maybe we can even have apartments there or something—like a community house where people can just crash there, like a co-op…That’s another thing, I want to have free counseling for members of the Finesse Center. That’s a goal in the future.

What are some ways people can support the Center? Is there anything else that you still need?
We’ve been getting a lot of donations, but if you have any art supplies you would like to donate—we still need to buy Adobe, which is a lot of money. We still need to buy a few more pieces of furniture, too. And our copier doesn’t work, so we’ve got to get another copier machine.

Is there anything else you want people to know about the Center or about you?
I feel like when you’re thrown hardships in life—I know it’s not easy, I know it’s not easy—but what really helped me get through it was just, you know, making lemonade. Trying to figure out what good could come out of this. ‘Cause you know, when you look at it, it’s like, this is bad. You know, my brother was killed, it’s terrible. But it doesn’t end there, and it doesn’t have to end there, and I don’t have to be stuck dwelling on his death when I can remember his life.

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