The Hudson Valley has long been a cradle for artists and craftspeople of all kinds. Galleries, co-ops, and outdoor sculpture gardens draw visitors from far and wide. Halfway between its original home of New York City and local creative hub Beacon, in Blauvelt, stands a 7,800 sq ft studio equipped with carpentry and metal shops. ARCH Production and Design boasts a CNC and laser room, a paint and finishing booth, a music recording studio, and more.
Founded in Bushwick in 2010, this art-haven-meets-modern-workplace is the brainchild of Canadian-born maker and artist Evan Collier. While window dressing and working in nightlife in NYC, Collier created a life-sized Toman archway and a series of columns for Pier 59 Studios. His friend from the Burning Man community commissioned the piece to celebrate Pier 59’s 11th anniversary.
After drawing up a design, Collier and some friends from Brooklyn began building the archway in renowned artist Alex Grey’s former studio in Chelsea. In February 2010, the project was installed. Met with an outpour of enthusiasm, a business-minded Collier was motivated to found his own company – an experiential branding collective, aptly named ARCH.
ARCH builds pop-up shops and interactive experiences for businesses. The Hudson Valley company has worked with all sorts of companies from Disney to Def Jam; Bacardi to Burton. While ARCH has long designed party spaces and sets for live theater events, it works for private companies and individuals, too.
“We are primarily business-to-business,” Collier says. “We work for brands but we also do have a large number of requests for projects, and have done projects for artists producing their artwork. If they want to work bigger, or work with a new material that they’re not previously comfortable working with, they can come to us to help them with the fabrication and the production and the logistics.”
When it comes to designing an installation – what ARCH calls ‘activating a space’ – a team of makers and artists get to work in the Blauvelt studio.
“It’s like painting a picture with a client,” says Collier. “Fifty percent of the time they give us a blank canvas. The other 50 percent of the time they give us a render and say, ‘This is what we want to do,’ but then we have to reverse engineer the render to figure out how to do it.”
First the team heads to the drawing board. After coming up with a basic pitch, ARCH meets with the client again. Then, it flushes out the idea with mood boards, focusing specifically on materiality and dimension. Once a final concept is agreed upon by both parties, makers move into the production phase.
For someone like Collier, the experience of making art for a client is very different from that of creating a piece for oneself.
“When I’m making art, 95 percent of the time for a client, it’s very controlled. The client knows exactly what they’re getting. They know exactly what they want or what we’ve agreed to produce, and I need to work within that work within those confines. With my own creative process,” Collier says, “there’s no rules. You can create what you want to create.”
Collier was recently featured on the History Channel program Assembly Required, where he was given a platform to break the rules, and create his own artwork in front of a TV audience.
“I need to make sure to feed my own soul, and my own inner artists and creativity by finding the time to create things that are just for myself, too,” he says.
Recently, Collier has taken up a painting practice with his daughter, Annabell.
“She and I paint on a regular basis. I continue to work on my music production and sculpting, on creating pieces of furniture for myself. Those are great outlets, and allow me to really feel fulfilled as an artist.”
When it comes to his personal art-making, Collier uses all mediums – wood, plastic, tape, paint – but particularly loves welding and working with metal. In terms of commercial work, he is passionate about building for fundraisers and social or environmental awareness events that create a call to action. In June of 2019, ARCH produced a World Pride NYC Parade float for HBO.
“We’re really happy to build for companies that are aware, socially and environmentally,” he says.
Sustainability and activism are crucial to ARCH’s mission. Collier noticed early on that he was working in an industry that can be inherently wasteful. The company participates in several recycling and upcycling initiatives, and is adamant about reusing materials whenever possible. In collaboration with the Garner Arts Center, ARCH donated all of its extra materials to local artists, makers, and small businesses. When taking on any project, the first conversation held with a client is about sustainability.
“Design impacts lives and it impacts the planet,” Collier says. “When we look at a project for the first time we have to ask ourselves, ‘How is this going to impact our staff? How’s this gonna impact the planet, and how are we going to do the most good while causing the least harm?’”
The company’s larger environmental and community mission led it to create the ARCH COLLECTIVE in 2019. In an effort to champion local makers, the collective holds group shows in the Hudson Valley area. In April 2019, it launched REWIND – an interactive funhouse in Nyack built with recycled and upcycled materials by craftspeople in association with ARCH.
“Early on I realized that you can’t do anything really significant by yourself. You need a team,” Collier says. “The collective, the people who work at ARCH, are able to use the shop and its facility to work on our own personal projects outside of company working hours.”
Over the past several years, Collier and his team have been working to move away from building temporary installations to creating permanent artwork that’s as close to 100-percent sustainable as possible. In July of 2019, ARCH created five permanent installations for The Museum of Sex in New York City. For the better part of 2020, it worked to create a memorial down in Somerset, Pennsylvania to commemorate the 44 people on Flight 93 who passed away during 9/11. The memorial is constructed for an infinite lifestyle. Collier describes it as, “hands down the most quote-un-quote monumental project [I’ve] ever worked on.”
In looking to the future, ARCH works to connect with local Hudson Valley artisans and makers who are interested in commercial artwork. Collier urges artists to reach out to the company to collaborate. Since relocating to Blauvelt in the winter of 2017, the company has been in search of talented makers who are passionate about inspiring others and uplifting the community through their art.
“We’re really trying to find new projects that are in alignment with our values and ethics,” he says, “whether that’s rewilding, whether that’s creating green spaces, cleaning up grading systems, and innovation for the environment, or social structures or design challenges. That’s really where we want to be working, on things that affect people and the environment.”