With the “no hesitations” vibe of youthful naïveté on her side, Daryl Oh set out to build a space so her community could feel safe to create.
Daryl Oh quit her first job out of college to build a creative studio with collaboration and community at its core—something she couldn’t find in the vast playground of New York City. Holyrad Studio is Oh’s ‘love child’—a space for youth, the future, and the arts to thrive.
“I said to myself—‘I’m 22, I don’t have a mortgage, I don’t have kids, I’m gonna do it.’ I quit my job to create a space that filled in all the gaps. I didn’t start it because I have the mentality of an entrepreneur. It was because I woke up and said ‘I need this’ and I can figure this out.”
Now she empowers photographers, filmmakers, and musicians to use Holyrad as a blank canvas to express their creativity without fear or reservation. “When I first started it was just me and I was trying to figure out how to pay rent, and then I realized how many people in my position needed something like this. It wasn’t an idea—it was a necessity.” Oh figured out how to make her space work for others by asking her community what they needed. “I started exploring what a safe space meant. I hosted female-organized events and invited all different types of marginalized communities to feel out the space and tell me what they needed.”
Before becoming the Holyrad it is today, Oh hosted concerts, parties, and art gallery openings. She let the intention of her space evolve over time and was open to change to meet the needs of the people her space now hosts. “It comes down to having a space that allows autonomy for the people that exist within it. After two years of figuring out what everyone else needed—I think we got to the place where we know what that is now. You look at some of the affordable spaces in NYC and a lot of them don’t take into consideration some of the needs we have—like community support and a collaborative environment.
In December 2016 she brought on two partners. They took all the lessons from the first location and relocated to Brooklyn, restructuring for the community they were trying to serve. “Our vision for the future of Holyrad was to create a production company with a professional-level production space to host photoshoots and fashion events. Our mission to empower our community came down to giving people jobs and access to the professional-level studio they needed.”
Her production studio is a 1,300-square-foot open concept space. Lofted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows open up to unobstructed views of the Brooklyn skyline and offer ample sunlight that fills the space from dusk ’til dawn. They’ve fully equipped the studio with everything a shoot day could need—from a kitchenette, to a private bathroom, a hair and makeup station, and a tethering station.
The success of Oh’s space is grounded in listening and observing. She explored what was around her, and what was missing. “The first obstacle is affordability. I looked at other examples of shared studio spaces. I learned that I needed to be able to afford a space and eventually find enough artists to pay for the space, but I also needed additional revenue. Then thisopenspace came into my life.” Beyond giving her another channel to get her studio out there, thisopenspace also exposed Oh to other likeminded creatives. “When thisopenspace was first expanding to NYC, one of their scouts found my listing on craigslist and thought it was a beautiful space, so they sponsored an event with us and Sofar Sound.” From that event, Oh forged a relationship with the music events startup that creates intimate music experiences and secret concerts. Sofar Sound has since held another event in her new space where concertgoers turn off their cellphones and listen to music they’ve never heard before.
Holyrad has since hosted curators, photographers, and major fashion publications. Oh says a highlight was hosting two female-owned beauty businesses who did a live presentation and photoshoot. “It was exciting for me because it’s nice to see new systems of the sharing economy really working and empowering people who wouldn’t have the opportunity if thisopenspace and Holyrad didn’t exist.”
Her advice for other entrepreneurs is to eliminate hesitation and fear from your mode of operation. “Our brain is setup to prevent us from doing something that may be harmful. So we don’t speak up in meetings and share that one brilliant idea because we’re scared. I’m not an exceptionally qualified businesswomen, but I figure it out. If I fall on my face, it’s okay. Failure is proof that you gave it a try.”
Follow Holyrad to get inspired by the creators shooting in Daryl’s space.
Are you looking for a professional level production space in NYC for your next photo or video shoot? Check out Holyrad Studio right here.