East Oaks Studio

Painters (left to right) Louis Carr, Joshua LaRock, and Michael Klein pose in their work space at the new East Oaks Studio in Raleigh on Friday, September 8, 2017. After meeting in New York, the three artists decided to move to Raleigh to start a multi-use studio and gallery space for themselves and other creatives.

“We want to find people that we can pour into here,
and to contribute to the art culture as it grows.”

-Louis Carr, painter and co-founder, East Oaks Studio

by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Madeline Gray

Contemporary realist painters Louis Carr, Michael Klein, and Joshua LaRock straddle the line between traditional art and popular culture. The trio – none of them North Carolina natives – opened East Oaks Studio in a historic mill building on Dawson Street in April. “We have a common vision about what we’re trying to do,” says LaRock. Namely: create a gallery, workshop, studio, and gathering space that welcomes the public, teaches them to paint, and celebrates their work. “There’s a high demand here, we’ve found,” LaRock says. “A lot of people have come out of the woodwork who are interested in what we’re doing, and who want to paint.”

They met many of those folks through a series of online video tutorials the three of them put together. “Since Bob Ross, people have been making videos” that teach people to paint, Carr says, “but we wanted to create something that would provide quality instruction and also be something beautiful.” The result, described by Carr as “a marriage between quality video and quality art,” fueled a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the creation of the studio. Now that the studio is open, LaRock says, “we can get down to the work of painting.”

The three men met at the atelier of the famed realist painter Jacob Collins in New York, and want East Oaks to provide budding young artists in this area the same kind of venue for learning. Their open-floorplan studio-workshop-gallery space hosts free workshops for beginners and paid workshops for serious artists. Each artist still produces instructional videos.

“This space has developed slowly, but we know patience pays off,” says Carr. They chose Raleigh because it “checked all of the boxes,” including cost of living, quality of life, and the strength of the cultural community. “This is the place that is primed and ready for us to contribute to the swell of great art.”