- Matthew Thorsen
- From top down: Angie Lezot, Andy Duback, and Jason Robinson
The beleaguered top block of the Church Street Marketplace just got a new boost to its creative economy: a multimedia art and performance enterprise called DesignHaus. The idea for it “started with a trip to Las Vegas to view new photo gear,” explains Jason Robinson, 32, owner of LeZot Camera and co-founder of the atelier-type art space. “It started out as a joke, making fun of the design we saw everywhere and thinking, We could do this.” In essence, Robinson rebelled against the cheesy, throwaway mentality of Vegas and much of the marketing merch in his industry. He and friend Angie LeZot (daughter of the original store owner) both profess a preference for the long-lasting and high-quality. “It’s more Vermonty, you know?” suggests Robinson.
A few months went by, and the idea of finding a space to pursue their own creative projects as well as open one to the public germinated into reality: DesignHaus held its first class on August 25. Robinson and LeZot also brought mutual friend Andy Duback on board. All three are photographers, which explains courses such as Digital Workflow, Photo Basics and Intro to Studio Lighting. But, says LeZot, 24, “We don’t want to be stuck with that.” DesignHaus is also offering a life drawing class taught by Mr. Masterpiece, a sardonically named Burlington painter who calls his class “Original Drawers.” And there’s an improv class taught by Richard Rodriguez entitled “Improvalicious.”
Robinson says that DesignHaus will draw teachers who are photographers in the area, a community he knows well from the camera store. And, he says, “We have good relationships with professors at local colleges.” LeZot will teach in the future as well, but “for now she’s our organizer,” Robinson notes. “She controls the flow of students and clients.”
A recent visit with LeZot to the space, on the second floor of 22 Church Street, reveals a large, brick-walled room loosely divided into two halves by the quality of light: The back half has a high skylight ceiling, bathing the room in the soft northern light that is favored by artists. The back wall is draped in long “photo muslins” of tan, blue and white. At the moment, a lone stool sits in front, faced by a couple of rows of plastic chairs. But, LeZot points out, “We’re building easels for the life drawing classes.”
In addition, she says, “We want this to be a social and performance space,” envisioning shows put on by the improv students or local thespians, for example. It will also become a de facto gallery; local metal sculptor Kat Clear will exhibit her “Whoopsie Girls” series at DesignHaus later this month.
“Not to take away from the places that already exist, but we want to fill whatever void there is in the Burlington community,” says Robinson. “We’re small and limber and open to anything.”