Amy Kaufman (Park Bugle photo by Lori E. Hamilton)

It’s a long loft-like space in an old building on University Avenue, dotted with three industrial sewing machines, several cutting tables and a few dress forms. Where others might see an empty workspace, veteran costume designer Amy Kaufman envisions a busy hive of behind-the-scenes theatrical activity.

Kaufman is the guiding spirit behind a project she calls Collective Spaces, which she hopes will bring together costume designers from various small theaters and independent projects in a creative atmosphere that features sharing of time and resources, bartering of skills and low-cost help in the form of interns and volunteers.

In March, Collective Spaces—located in the Triangle Building at 2500 University Ave.—together with the Creative Enterprise Zone and St. Anthony Park Community Council sponsored its first open house in an effort to attract professional costumers and others to check out the advantages of working together. It’s an advantage that Kaufman, 37, herself keenly appreciates. Until recently she was working out of a basement space below her Minneapolis apartment building.

“It used to be a three-car garage,” she says. “This is a big improvement. I don’t want to design costumes by myself.”

What Kaufman realizes is that the vibrant theater scene of the Twin Cities features talent, drive, creative energy and the natural fizz that erupts when smart, imaginative, hardworking people come together. What it lacks in most cases is space. Space to rehearse, space to build sets and, most important, space to create a “costume shop”—the rich, deep reservoir of clothing and props that designers can draw on to give stage life to their designs.

Kaufman arrived in the Twin Cities more than a decade ago from her native Ohio for an internship at the Guthrie Theater. “The Guthrie has a whole costume shop, but local designers don’t work there,” she says.

Kaufman hopes to replicate the Guthrie’s resources for smaller theaters by pooling the talents of independent costume designers like herself. It can cost between $800 and $4,000 to costume a play for a midsized local theater, Kaufman says.

“You do a lot of renting and visiting thrift stores,” she notes. All of that could become immeasurably easier, she says, if local theaters had a cooperative costume shop like Collective Spaces to pull from. And her imagination doesn’t stop there. She’d like to see Collective Spaces lead the way to shared set-building, rehearsal space and all the other behind-the-scenes functions of a working theater.

For more information about Collective Spaces go to

3 Responses

  1. I am a local costume designer with a studio/retail space downtown St. Paul. I’ve considered starting such a shared space and would love to get in contact with Amy asap. My busiest season is starting up and if I were to consider a move it would need to bee soon – this seems like it would be a great fit for us. Thanks!

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