Before Wonder/Cowork/Create came into being, Nick and Cat Pena and Eric Clausen wondered how they were going to utilize 340-B Monroe.
"It was just an empty 3,000-square-foot warehouse space," Cat says. "At first, we didn't know what or if anything we were going to do with it."
They thought about a "live-work artist residential space or a co-op space," Clausen says.
- Nick and Cat Pena and Eric Clausen
Since opening in April, artists, musicians, CPAs, developers, and others have taken advantage of Wonder, whether putting on a concert, an art show, screening a film, or just using it as office space. It also can be used to host meetings, gameshows, and pop-ups.
They want it to be a flexible, functional co-work space for artist-run experimental programming.
"We're open to people who want to think differently," Clausen says.
Unless you work at home or have a studio, "aside from coffee shops there isn't a lot of drop-in space to work on a project," Clausen says. Wonder is kind of an "in between space."
"We're interested in having a place where a carpenter and graphic designer and a painter and an architect are able to have a conversation about what they're working on," Cat says. "Those conversations are encouraged. They really aren't encouraged or fostered in any other place. It's an experiment all unto itself."
Nick, an associate professor at Christian Brothers University, is an artist who does mostly paintings and mixed-media installations. Cat is a public arts artist who has a hand in art administration in different organizations in Memphis. Clausen is a self-supported artist who has done a lot of murals and signage.
The three, who met through the Memphis art community, wanted to "create some sort of artists guild or union to get the art community together to be able to advocate for itself and grow and learn together in ways we weren't seeing through programming by different arts organizations in town," Cat says.
Nick, Cat, and Clausen are transplants to Memphis. Nick is from Southern Illinois, Cat is from Santa Fe, and Clausen, who comes from a military family, lived in New York before moving to Memphis.
"Eleven years ago, when we moved here, we didn't feel like there was a place we could go to other than art shows on certain Friday nights to really meet people and talk," Nick says.
The "art sector has changed" since then, he says. "It used to be smaller than it is now, a handful of people making decisions on who was having shows."
Mike Todd, the owner of the building, called her and said the space was available, Cat says. "This neighborhood is changing so much he wanted to kind of keep some of the funky in the Edge district."
Through grants and repurposed materials from Crosstown Arts and the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, they were able to "change the facade of the building," Cat says.
They had a deck built. And they have a large sign coming that will help people easily find the space.
Membership rates are based on how often people want to work at Wonder/Cowork/Create. "Rates are ridiculously affordable because we know our market," Cat says. "Because we are our market."
They are encouraged by the number of people using the space. "I would say we're moving really fast, and the programming gets varied, interesting, and better," Nick says. "We're just trying to make sure we're sticking to our mission. Our biggest purpose was to create a sector-specific work space that focuses on Memphis' creative professionals and allows programming space for that sector as well."
How did "Wonder" fit into their name?
"We are just across the way from the old Wonder Bread factory," Cat says. "We were drawn to the location because most long-time Memphians are aware of where the Wonder Bread factory was. And then it drew back to the history of parts of the Edge district.
"We were also interested in the name itself. It's an active name that asks you to kind of dream. That was the beginning of essentially what we're trying to do."