Muffled music pumped through the recording studio speakers inside The Collage, a space that encompasses everything its name suggests. With walls decorated with colorful paintings by local artists, an office stuffed with production gear, a bright and airy t-shirt shop, a tattoo shop painted on the walls, and a dimly-lit recording studio, the building at 48 Posey St. is a creative playground.
And that’s what founders and owners, artist Xavier “Zay” Hutchins and musician Phillip Davis set out to do.
Davis and Hutchins aren’t new to Savannah’s creative scene. Hutchins is a painter whose canvas can vary from asphalt to skin, and Davis is a jack-of-all-trades who has his hand in many different creative and community endeavors around the city.
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The duo met in 2013 when Davis was performing at his first open mic night on River Street. A reunion turned into Davis getting a tattoo by Hutchins, who then morphed into the pair forming The Indigos, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded on a community of artists who support each other.
Their vision continued with The Collage.
The space officially opened in June and has already hosted numerous community events, including a benefit concert hosted by local artist Clay Hodges and the successful return of Sunday Supper, a monthly art and music event held by Hutchins, Davis and collaborator DJ Carlitobaby.
“It was amazing to see where this place started versus where it is now. A lot of people can’t even believe the work that has gone into it,” Hutchins said. “Everything I imagined for this place comes true.”
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It took seven months of sweat and hard work for the creative compound to come together, and Davis credited the finished product to the equal-minded effort and “extremely organic” teaming up with the other owners of The Collage. .
Will Montague is the owner of 3 Dot Tees, the colorful t-shirt shop at the entrance to the building that customers will likely spot before anything else. Zaquel Lawrence, a friend Davis has known since high school, is one of the co-owners of in-house recording studio Four Hundred Studio. Rounding out the studio-owning quartet are Karon McCorkle (Eliteboy Kay) and Zachary Laurel (Zach Zillon) with Cornelius Brown (Abandz) serving as lead and lead sound engineer.
Savannah is a city teeming with musicians, but when it comes to laying down tracks, finding a professional recording studio in town can be limited. There are a few that dot the area, mostly landing in the downtown and north side, but with the introduction of Four Hundred Studios, artists closer to the south side of town are gaining an accessible outlet for their music.
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“It was something that we were striving for. Because we feel like the other studios…it seems like it’s a little bit harder to get in there to record. And at our house it’s open. We’re here recording ourselves so you can see what’s going on. I feel like we’re pretty transparent with the space,” Davis said.
Studio accessibility goes beyond the simple ability to create music. The owners of The Collage want to ensure artists get the full package when it comes to promoting and developing their music.
“It’s a nice feeling. Artists can enter and record their songs, then enter and use the event space to host an album release party. If you need a photoshoot to promote that, 3 Dot Tees handles the merchandise, graphic design, and web design.
About a hundred miles away, South Carolina-based artists are also moving into Four Hundred Studios. Talaina Webb, also known as Laina J, lives in Beaufort, South Carolina, but said there are no recording studios in the area; when it’s time to save, his best bets are Charleston, Atlanta or Savannah.
“It helps me tremendously because usually I have to go to Atlanta to record. So I save a lot of time and money to Savannah rather than driving four and a half hours to Atlanta,” said Webb “That’s better access for me.”
For Webb, Savannah is a melting pot of artists, and Four Hundred Studios epitomizes it. South Carolina artist Duheem Singleton, also known as Heemy Guapo, has been involved with The Collage and Four Hundred Studios since the ownership team purchased the building and use the studio to record their music.
He said the sentiment shared by Webb was exactly what they wanted to convey.
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“We want to make sure we provide comfort, loyalty and love. Everyone, every artist, can come somewhere and feel welcome and not feel boxed in or pressured or like it’s not the right place to record,” Singleton said.
“We’ve made it an environment for young, old, everyone comes to get involved even if you don’t make music. You could do poetry. You can walk in, feel comfortable, have a good vibe, turn off the lights, and just go your own way. Be you.
Space is constantly changing. Its pre-opening setup in May is completely different from the setup that exists now, and Hutchins and Davis hope to continue to build on the creative concept.
“Infinite possibilities,” Hutchins said.
Laura Nwogu is a quality of life reporter for Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected] Twitter: @lauranwogu_