For our series ‘Portraits of Romance’ we’ve set out to find interesting projects and interview the people behind them. For our first feature in the series we talked to Melina Volkmann, Co-Founder of Stusu. Volkmann explained to us what’s behind the online platform Stusu and how #moreromance fits in.

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Whether you’re looking for a place to sleep while abroad or an event location in your own city – since the advent of Airbnb, platforms revolving around renting and renting out places have become an integral part of our everyday life. In how far does Stusu offer a new approach?
Whether you need an exhibition space or a dance studio, are a sculptor looking for a room to work in or a musician looking for a place for practise – Stusu focuses exclusively on work spaces for artists. Due to the very specific and varying needs and requirements resulting from the different types of creative work, every advertisement comes with detailed specifications. What can each room be used for? What is it equipped for? Does it have sleeping facilities? This information is accessible without the need of a paid membership. A service as such didn’t exist before Stusu.

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This sounds like an artist-to-artist initiative. Is booking spaces via Stusu only open to people who are part of the creative community?

No, everyone is welcome to use Stusu. And we intend to keep it that way. The only time we do intervene, is if a newly posted advertisement doesn’t fulfil our standards. When it comes to the final booking we rely on the autonomy of the landlord and tenant. Currently, we are working on a contract model, however – prices and deposits will be negotiated independently without our involvement.

To lend your entire equipment to a stranger and grant them access to your creative space, even if you’ve defined restrictions beforehand, requires a high degree of trust.

Definitely. To promote trust, we want to create a long-term community that brings people together, who are from an otherwise very competitive scene. We’re less of a classic advertising platform and more of a starting point for artists to realise joint projects. For this to work we trust in our users to show respect, which our experience so far has validated. All in all, and to put it in your words: It’s a platform for #moreromance.

Apropos #moreromance, what does this signify to you personally?

Not to lose sight of the small things in life. To remind oneself of them time and again and to be grateful for them.

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Have you received feedback for Stusu that you are grateful for?

A lot even. We’ve been online since March 2017 and already count 8000 registered users with over 500 studios on offer from New York to Bali. This all happened mostly via word of mouth and virtually without budget. Initially, I wouldn’t have believed it could work like this. Our success so far reflects the high demand, which is the best feedback and my biggest motivator.

Sounds like the art world had been waiting for Stusu all along!

The art scene operates internationally, is constantly on the move. Finding a work space for creative purposes outside of your own city is getting more difficult due to lack of space and rising rents. Stusu offers the possibility of flexible lease contracts, which suits the needs of many artists better than conventional long-term leases.

What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome on this journey?

We’re facing it currently. Stusu is an artist-to-artist initiative. The service is free. Nevertheless, we need to be able to pay our bills. This has led to a conflict that is currently unresolved, for which we need a fair long-term solution. To this end we are currently preparing for a Crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which will start mid-November.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give all current and future users of Stusu?

Live out your creative potential!