Nestled between a Turkish-owned wholesaler and a crumbling residential building with a seemingly endless stream of children running through its doors, the storefront of concept bookshop a.p. isn’t immediately recognisable as the entryway to an expansive creative oasis.
Behind a.p., however, is Callie’s, a lush artists’ residency that has hosted the likes of Camille Henrot, Rosa Barba, Bouchra Khalili or Petrit Halilaj and electroclash feminist musician Peaches since opening its doors in 2020.
If few are aware of what sits in the former 1870s machine factory at Lindower Straße 20, even fewer know the woman behind. Callie’s is the brainchild of Jarrett Gregory, a New York curator who had few connections to Berlin before arriving here. When her partner, an entrepreneur and art collector, had purchased the factory on Lindower Straße 20 in 2009. When the two decided to relocate to Berlin together, Gregory saw the vacant building as an opportunity.
My decision to come to Berlin was very much about that space.
The building, steeped in history, was vast enough to accommodate most artistic pursuits. Gregory knew she wanted to utilise the space to set up a project. “I came to Berlin to start something on my own, where I could experiment with those ideas,” Gregory says.
She had already acquired extensive curatorial experiences at major US institutions including the Whitney, the New Museum, LACMA and the Hirshhorn. She has become well-acquainted with the museum machine throughout her near-20-year career. When it came to providing artists support, she felt this machine was lagging.
Initially, Gregory did not consider starting a residency. But as she began to work alongside three long-time Berlin artist, musician and choreographer friends, she realised the complexity of artists’ needs, and a residency started to seem like the natural answer. “I was hearing from them what they felt like Berlin had and about what they felt like it needed.”
Today, Callie’s consists of a large courtyard and a vast expanse of private studios and shared practice facilities over its four floors: a state-of-the-art sound studio, a movement studio fitted with sprung floor, exhibition spaces, a bookstore as well as three 17-square metre apartments for visiting residents.
If you can put people in dialogue and create a community… I think that’s invaluable.
But one of the most striking features about Callie’s is that, in Gregory’s words, “it’s non-transactional”. Residents are not required to pay or complete artwork at the end of their stints. They’re not asked to give talks, and there are no strict limits on how long each resident can stay; artists have stayed anywhere from two weeks to 12 months. There’s a shared kitchen and a rooftop patio where residents can gather and collaborate if they wish. But Gregory aims to offer more: “If you offer space as well as intellectual and emotional support,”
Gregory explains, “and if you can put people in dialogue and create a community… I think that’s invaluable.”
In each artist’s apartment, there is a library of books recommended by residents who came before them. While Callie’s has hosted several artists of international acclaim, Gregory’s goal is not to build a celebrity roster. Instead, she aims to select a group that is diverse in everything ranging from age, nationality, experience and ideas.
“For me, having all these creative minds and different modes of creativity under one roof is really the ideal,” she says. What’s essential to her is “cross-pollination, even if it’s very subtle and it’s not formalised as a collaboration”.
It’s non-transactional. Residents are not required to pay or complete artwork at the end of their stints.
Callie’s is now aiming to extend the “cross-pollination” that’s at work among its international residents to Wedding locals and neighbours alike with open studios and public events. Some of Gregory’s favourite moments were Callie’s Thursday dub nights when former resident Nora Chipaumire would invite DJs into her studio to perform last September.
“Central yet hidden”, says Callie’s website about the restored brick building and its idyllic leafy courtyard. Callie’s is somewhat a castle on the hill, and Gregory is somewhat its keeper. But while the residency remains the project of a small group of outsiders, something separate and entirely new, it is hard to find fault in a project that provides artists with creative homes in the slowly but surely gentrifying city. And while ventures out of Callie’s are limited, Gregory continues to bring Berlin in.
- Find out more about Callie’s here.