Creative businesses come together downtown

Recording, photo studios spark a ‘creative underground’ in Springfield.

Two businesses have opened brick-and-mortar locations in the basement of Commerce Pointe, the beginnings of what one local leader called a “creative underground.”

Derek Snowden and Kristen Frank have opened a recording studio and photo studio, respectively. While cultivating their own businesses, the two also work together on promoting the other’s work.

“It’s cool that Derek and I are on the same floor, and can pass people back and forth,” Frank said.

Her business, Impact Studios, has done photo shoots, promotional materials and music videos for Snowden’s artists at Empire Studio. She runs it with her husband, Keith.

“We were already talking because we’re both right in the center of downtown Springfield,” Frank said. “Just being able to work together on that, between two of us we have different skill sets.”

Commerce Pointe, at 20 S. Limestone St., is already home to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and various law offices. The basement floor is under construction with the exception of Impact Studios and Empire Studio.

“There is a creative underground in the basement of Commerce Pointe, and these businesses moved in without assistance,” said Maureen Fagans, the outgoing executive director of the Center City Association. “They’re new and we wanted to see more young people in business, and that’s what’s so exciting.”

Snowden started Empire Studios from his home in Urbana after taking a hiatus from his band, Small Town Sleeper. Snowden hails from Middletown and graduated from Kenton Ridge High School.

Now, Snowden makes hip-hop beats for artists and uses the money from that to fund his local studio. He opened the physical location Feb. 1.

“Our city needs more of a musical leader in its presence to define the industry to them,” Snowden said. “There’s a misconception about what it means to be famous and signed, and I can use my knowledge, wisdom and experience to teach them about those misconceptions.”

Snowden said many local artists move away when they could stay local to record. Snowden said he hopes to inspire people and represent the Midwest as a musical region.

Frank, who does work for Empire Studios, said she opened her studio in downtown as a way to broaden the services she can give. Frank does videos, family portraits and weddings, as well as graphic design services.

“For the last couple of years I’ve been working out of my home and limited to doing outdoor shoots,” Frank said. “Now I have a place to shoot and meet with clients. I definitely have seen an increase as far as the work I have this time of year.”

Both Snowden and Frank said they hope to be the beginnings of a creative movement downtown.

“I have already seen the buzz in this building, and people have already heard about us,” Frank said. “People on lunch breaks drop in and say, ‘We’ve heard there’s something going on down here.’ ”

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