Recent USC graduate Mazie Cook had an idea to bring an artist co-workspace to Columbia last winter. Later that April, she realized her dream and decided to make it a reality by opening the NoMa Warehouse.
NoMa Warehouse, opened with co-founder Beth Lawson, is an artist space inspired by the legacy of Andy Warhol’s New York City-based studio “The Factory,” which is a space for experimental artists to let their creativity thrive that was open from 1963 to 1984.
Cook is modeling NoMa after that vision by fostering what she describes as “cool, funky, edgy vibes.”
Trahern Cook, a local Columbia artist that uses the space, said the atmosphere was outside the box. Cook, @easelcathedral on Instagram, does live painting and experimental pieces, which makes that atmosphere a natural fit for him as an artist.
He said the community was “extremely generous, extremely cooperative and eager to see what everybody's got going on.”
Artists with a membership can come to the Warehouse to work on projects or to hangout and socialize with other creators.
In addition to being a space where artists can work and collaborate, NoMa has a storefront where it sells vintage clothes and featured artwork from its members.
“We definitely try hard to feature our artists as much as we can,” Cook said. She is an artist and knows the importance of drawing crowds to see artwork.
Cook said the creative environment is classroom style: “You just leave it how it was when you came.” That is to say, artists help each other keep the space tidy.
Other ways NoMa supports its artists and grows its community is through member art exhibitions and the NoMa Flea, a social shopping experience similar to Soda City.
NoMa Flea takes place at the warehouse every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and features art for sale, opportunities to speak with artists, drinks and food trucks.
“You’re going to go out later? You come here first to pregame,” Trahern joked about the Flea.
Cook said it's important that space is accessible and affordable for college students.
“If you're not in a place where you can buy your own gallery, or, you know, rent your own studio space, it's hard as a new artist to have access to something like that. So, I was like, well, wouldn't it be cool if that existed,” Cook said.
NoMa also hosts events such as movie trivia nights, rap concerts, candle making workshops and more, all of which are open to University of South Carolina students.
“We want students here, a lot,” Lawson, the executive director, said.
NoMa Warehouse has a strong connection to the university and Columbia community.
It’s a family business, and Beth Lawson is the mother-in-law of founder Cook and the mother of finance director Cara Lawson. Cara Lawson is a fourth-year business student at USC and Cook graduated in 2020.
Beth Lawson said she wants this business to be an inspiration to young people.
“I'll hear a lot of young people say, 'I don't really have a lot of experience,' or, 'Haven't done this before,'” Lawson said. “[Mazie and Cara] get to share their story with other young people; to say, 'Just because you're young, it doesn't mean that you're not capable of doing big, hard things.'”
NoMa Warehouse is located at 2222 Sumter St., Columbia and is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Various events and admission prices can be found on its website.
“It’s just a great, great space for, really, anything you can dream up,” Trahern said.