Inside Williamsburg’s ACME Studio with Brian Colgan and Shawn Patrick Anderson

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Williamsburg has changed in the last few years. There’s been a lot of development. People have been priced out. Big glass buildings housing big glass condos have sprouted like weeds along the water. There’s a Duane Reade. It’s gotten pretty corporate, is what I’m saying. Everyone’s moved to Bushwick. I mean, I guess I’m not sure if you’ve heard all this, but I feel like you probably have. Which is why it’s so amazing to discover ACME Studio, right in the heart of the Williamsburg, right in the middle of where all the biggest changes have gone down, a creative oasis amid all of the new developments. Finding your way to the somewhat hidden ACME entryway is akin to what the Pevensie children must have felt as they fought their way through the heavy fur coats filling the magic wardrobe, but once you get inside ACME, it’s almost like you’re in Narnia. Well, there’s no witch in ACME. But there is a lion. A taxidermy lion, but still.

ACME Studio is, in the words of studio manager Brian Colgan, “part prop house, part photo studio with cyc, and part design and fabrication shop. We can design and build your set, prop it out with items from our eclectic collection, and host the photo shoot in-house. What we do is what makes us different. Most studios are just a studio space where you come in and it’s a big empty white box. We’re different because we are the studio but we have all this stuff in here.”

“Stuff” is an understatement. I have “stuff” at my house. ACME has a bounty of just about everything you can imagine, and even things that you couldn’t imagine if you tried. Taxidermy animals peer down from their perches lining the walls and a Jesus statue adorned with a crown of barbed wire prays over you in the bathroom. A sculpture of disembodied mannequin torsos graces the space along with paintings that have been given to owner Shawn Patrick Anderson over the years. I ask Colgan how such an amazing and eclectic collection had been amassed and he tells me, “Shawn Patrick is a set designer. He used to have a studio by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. People started to ask to shoot there because he had all this stuff. More people started asking because they wanted a raw, wacky space. A lot of the stuff is acquired through shoots we do. We’ve realized how important it is to edit stuff out. Like this big blue pencil here. [Colgan gestures to an almost six-foot long blue pencil suspended from the ceiling.] We had it to make a bunch for an Oprah Magazine cover shoot. We had to have like fifteen Oprah-sized pencils. But we got rid of most of them after the shoot. For the most part, we like rusted, reclaimed, rustic stuff. And taxidermy. We’re the taxidermy people now. We think of like How can you be the best at this one thing? That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Anderson says, “What we’re very proud about it how much of this stuff is reclaimed. We work a lot with Build it Green and it’s great to be able to repurpose something. Otherwise it can be very wasteful.”

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