Monique Cagle. photo by Paige Langenderfer
~by Paige Langenderfer
Tucked away off of a beautiful, winding country road is Brown County’s newest hidden treasure. Artist Monique Cagle refers to it as her studio, but really it is more like the biggest sculpture she will likely ever craft.
Upon quick glance, you might not notice anything unusual about the grain bin on her property. The familiar rippled steel panels remain on the exterior, but a look inside reveals the extraordinary transformation from a structure of rigid functionality to one of beauty and whimsy.
It took her a year to remodel her grain bin studio, with the help of her husband, brother, and general contractor Rob Mills, but the dream began long before that.
“I have always worked out of my home, but I really needed a proper studio. I was running out of room in my house and I never could get the right light,” she said. “I got the idea about five years ago. I saw that people were turning old grain bins into bars and bed and breakfasts and I thought, ‘A grain bin would make a really cool studio.’”
The building trades teacher at the high school was so impressed by the idea that he offered to take on the renovation as a project for his students. The students put in the sub floor, cut out the doors, and put in did some electrical work. Unfortunately, the teacher retired shortly after the work began and the school decided to discontinue the project.
“At that point I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I would be able to continue with the renovation because I did not have the money in my budget to pay for a general contractor,” Cagle said.
Knowing her intentions to share the space with the community, Cagle created a GoFundMe online profile to raise money. She used the site to share updates on the project and future dreams for the space.
“After the studio is completed, I will not only have a place to work and show my art, but I can invite other artists to use the space to teach and do workshops,” she wrote.
“Visitors would not only be able to enjoy my art, but they could see the gardens, visit the chickens and pet the goats. They’d see many of the same views that inspire my paintings, and they’d come away with a unique art experience that I think they’d remember for a long time.”
Her 600-square-foot (she prefers to say 600-round-foot) studio is nearing completion now. The 12-foot-high walls are covered in drywall and painted a soft off-white color. Windows welcome sunlight to bounce off of the white canvas ceiling, and the plywood floor looks “jazzy” thanks to a pattern of colorfully painted triangles.
A reading loft filled with books and pillows adds a cozy touch. Ace the cat has claimed the comfortable seating area, prancing in and out of the studio throughout the day. Cagle’s paintings on the walls, and a row of handmade, three-dimensional mice standing under a window, capture the purpose of the space.
photo by Paige Langenderfer
In a display of respect and admiration for the unique culture and history of Brown County, Cagle used poplar wood, milled in Helmsburg, for her window sills, shelves, and an eye-catching live-edge wood counter.
While she only recently moved into the space and has had little time to work on her craft, Cagle said it already feels like the perfect fit.
“The light is really nice in here. That helps a lot with painting,” she said. “There is a good energy in here. I like to think that all of the people who have helped with this project have left their positive energy.”
Cagle is looking forward to sharing her new, beautiful grain bin studio.
“Slowly the story is getting out there, about the crazy cat lady chicken farmer artist who wants to turn an empty old metal grain bin into an art studio so all can come from far and wide to learn a little about art and be an artist, maybe just for a day, maybe for the rest of their lives.”
To learn more about the grain bin studio project, visit Cagle’s GoFundMe page at <www.gofundme.com/grainbinstudio>. You can learn more about Cagle and her art by searching for Sleepy Cat Studio on Facebook or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.