Ciel Creative Space Offers the East Bay Safe Environments to Be Human
Situated two blocks East of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park, the Ciel Creative Space is an artistic sanctuary for creatives to explore, collaborate, co-exist, and craft visual content and experiences.
Co-founder Cecilia Caparas Apelin, born and raised in the East Bay, started Ciel in 2018 with artist Alexis Laurent; after they fell in love with one of the buildings they were considering as a potential event venue. They redesigned the city-block-sized warehouse, creating an environment that exudes a Parisian museum – Bauhaus vibe. Cecilia, who has experience as a corporate professional, even starting a creative agency, noticed the absence of a safe, creative space in her own community.
And thus Ciel was born. Located at 932 Parker Street, Ciel is owned by women of color and female-operated, offering both open and private studios, office suites, and dedicated desks, in a space filled plants and natural daylight. All bookings include access to their phone booth, wifi, a cafe with coffee and tea, and a fully-stocked kitchenette. Activities hosted at Ciel include everything from large productions such as art gallery viewings, runway shows, dance competitions, DJ sets, music videos, green-screened interviews, and fashion editorials.
They also have a dedicated Atelier co-working space that can be reserved by the hour or day. Proceeds from their art sales go toward a local charities and non-profits.
To learn more about the space and Ciel’s future plans, we spoke with Cecilia to reflect on her recent journey to open the space for the Bay Area.
How have you socialized this space with artists and the community at large?
I look at our business approach in two ways. First, we have our corporate and agency clients. That’s our bread and butter and helps pay for operational expenses. It allows us to keep our doors open for our industry and community. With that said, all of our corporate clients have come from word of mouth. I’ve done creative direction and brand management for 20 years. The foundation of my network was me reaching out saying I have space available to rent to my colleagues and friends from the fashion, art, music, and tech industries.
The other element of our business is our community. Our community is really the reason we do what we do. That’s the heart and soul of the business. The main reason I wanted to have a space in the East Bay is truly to create a home for our amazing, local creatives. Pre-pandemic, we would host happy hours or industry events to keep our community connected. A lot of times, people were so grateful to have a space like Ciel because they would connect with people they had not seen in years. During 2020, we hosted virtual events like sound baths, dance workshops, and live-streamed music events because we wanted to be sure to keep our community engaged and hopeful. Now in 2021, we are focusing on art + tech through immersive experiences. We feel that a huge part of making space to be human is connection and celebration.
What’s the process for reserving space and how much does it cost per hour and day?
With 40,000 square feet, we have 9 studios and our Atelier co-working space with creative suites. For studios, you can contact us through our website through the “book now” button. Studios are typically rented by the day, week, or month. You can learn more about each studio on our website or you can email us at [email protected].
For our coworking space in our Atelier, folks can drop in and get a day pass for $25 or look us up on Peerspace, Liquidspace, or Gable. We also have beautiful curated creative suites. Lots of local companies are doing breakout off-sites and supporting the hybrid work model, so our suites are perfect to get your team together without having to go into a typical office setting. Please email us at [email protected] for more information.
What’s been the most surprising event you’ve hosted so far?
The most surprising event we had hosted is something we cannot talk about because we are under NDA. However, another very surprising event we did was early on in the pandemic when a production team for Uber did a complete buy-out. It was a hybrid conference/live-streamed event… We had been prepping for virtual requests to happen, we had become really good friends with Sonic, and they helped us upgrade all our studios with Fiber. We basically turned each studio into mini TV stations. Sonic even told us that we have the fastest internet in Northern California!
We also had a very strict health and safety protocol with Covid testing on-site, social distancing, and screenings before arrival. Each member of the crew, and each person on our team supporting the crew, was required to test on a regular basis. We had all just finished our course on becoming Covid-19 Compliance Officers so we were ready for it.
So when the Uber team was ready to do their event, they came in with 4 or 5 semis, tons of crew, a huge LED screen set up, and all their executives. That was our first big jump into the hybrid event world and the production team, MoonLab, was absolutely amazing. Their live stream happened over the course of 2 days, with their overall production spanning over 2 weeks with load-in and load-out. We all became family after that. And no outbreaks happened! It truly was a safe set. That one is going down in the books because it was a huge success.
How far out is your calendar booked?
With hybrid events coming in hot, we are taking requests as far out as Summer 2022. We’re cultivating what the next phase of the event industry looks like and helping change-makers in the community create a new type of experience for their audience.
Have you had a desire to create additional spaces in other communities?
How did you know? There are definitely some talks in the works about expanding into other areas of the Bay Area, and possibly LA and NYC. Once I get through a couple of really big projects, I’ll see where the seeds have bloomed and take it one project at a time.
Our mission is, “Making Space to be Human.” I’ve been doing a lot of introspection since 2020 because my life before was very forward-driven. It was during last year that I realized my own mission statement was for myself as well. I needed to remind myself of that and be sure to recharge before going into another expansion phase.
How do you balance big business with ensuring support for smaller creatives in the communities?
The community piece is essential to our mission. In my corporate days, I had seen the different types of community programs where funding never got down to the source; where it needed to be. When I was coming up with the business model for Ciel, it was important to me to ensure we had a focus on our community. It’s important we support local creatives.
Just last year, even when the state of my business was still uncertain, we focused on community. We created a BLM call to action, held an event called Unfiltered as an open mic series for artists to come and get things off their chest, hosted ‘Ciel Sessions’ where a local artist and muralist would live stream to raise money, and hosted virtual talks around what it means to be Asian American, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), LGTBQ+ in this day and age.
When we re-opened during the pandemic, we were focused on the bread and butter of our business, then pivoted to community events after stabilizing operations. Now that we have fully expanded into one city block, we have put our focus on art & tech in our community.
We will be hosting the largest immersive event in the Bay Area with a Filipina, East Bay artist, Hueman, through an installation called “Homebody“. We’re centered around supporting the BIPOC community. I’m an inclusive-focused business. All the businesses and sponsorships we align with are about amplifying our diverse community in the East Bay.