Hidden between the warehouses in Cayman’s industrial zone, the islands’ creative community has found a home for art and innovation.
Despite the size of the space – 6,000 square feet – it can be easy to overlook, obscured between the neighbouring courier service and the flow of traffic to the airport.
But step inside Art Nest Creative Studio and any number of projects can be found in progress.
School groups glaze pottery, as a sewing machine runs in the background. The smell of toasted sourdough bread wafts through the café and over to an open art gallery.
Come by in the evening and you’re likely to find people painting and sipping drinks to the sound of local musicians performing.
Art Nest, on Maclendon Drive, embraces the concept of a sharing economy by providing co-working and social space for local creatives.
A cohort of creative industry business owners – mostly women – have populated the space over the past two years, cultivating an artistic energy found nowhere else in Cayman.
“We want to make art accessible to everybody, even if you don’t think you’re an artist,” says Art Nest founder Christina Pineda.
While Pineda has operated Art Nest for three years now, the concept of integrating other creatives into the mix has been an evolution. With a larger location than the former Art Nest studio on Smith Road, the operation is now able to house many more businesses and with them, many more creative endeavours.
A lot of the collaboration has arisen organically or in conversations with other entrepreneurs about their needs and their ideas, Pineda explained.
The Art Nest studio is now at full capacity, with businesses such as Spark Music School, Ipanema flip flop company and Outlandish Cayman crafts operating alongside each other.
“You don’t have to be a creative company necessarily to work out of here. But you have to be able to work in an avant-garde space that’s not perfectly corporate,” Pineda said.
AwardArt Gallery joined the space earlier this year, relocating from its address on North Sound Road.
For gallery owner Avril Ward, the move has come with some adjustments, such as learning to work in a collaborative business after years of operating independently. But the perks of joining the Art Nest community have made the transition worthwhile.
“I think the fact that I am surrounded by hundreds of other creative women all day, every day is really fun,” Ward said.
“So, we’re constantly throwing around ideas to improve the business together and to create new businesses. Opportunities and ideas have come up just from the fact that we’ve sat together.”
Inside the gallery space, visitors can peruse Ward’s creations, alongside those of other Cayman Islands artists, including Yonier Powery and Nasaria Suckoo Chollette.
The collaborative nature of Ward’s business extends beyond her corner of the studio. At Saucha’s Conscious Café, the tables have been recycled from old pallet wood by Ward. The upcycled furniture is just one example of partnership serving the greater good at Art Nest.
Conscious Café’s Britta Bush describes the experience of operating her first brick-and-mortar shop at Art Nest as a one of rejuvenation.
Before joining the Art Nest community, Bush had made her mark in Cayman with her kombucha brewery and plant-based meal delivery service. Stepping into a physical space came with challenges, as she navigated a new type of clientele and the demands of running a storefront.
With trial and error has also come a unique opportunity for growth.
“It’s so uplifting to come into a community where there’s a common thread, there’s a common ground,” Bush said.
“It’s been really nice to be in that space and not just [with my] head down in the kitchen, trying to crank out the food. So now, it’s rejuvenated me to get more creative with what I’m doing.”
Now Bush and Pineda are exploring the concept of a collective kitchen at Art Nest, where invited chefs can offer their own menu items. The initiative would offer a workspace to independent chefs while allowing the café to extend its menu options.
With new ideas – from a DIY craft bar to a Sunday market – buzzing back and forth at Art Nest, Pineda’s hope is to sustain a space as dynamic as it is communal.
“It’s always a meeting of the two needs,” Pineda said.
As more creative minds come together, more ideas can come to life.
“This is the perfect place to do this. In Cayman, if we had been breaking down silos and sharing things more often,” Pineda said, “I think businesses would have gotten ahead a lot quicker, rather than trying to go it on your own.”