I recently had the pleasure of interviewing power couple Gary Kordan (Emmy-nominated production designer of Key & Peele, also designed Workaholics, Just Add Magic and Fox’s recent hit, Ghosted) and Justine Ungaro (photographer), regarding their new studio, MUSE. They founded it in Los Angeles, specifically Studio City, for the local and booming creative arts community. Both Justine Ungaro & Gary Kordan own and operate MUSE. Justine has been working as a photographer for the past 15 years and has been operating her studio from a storefront space in Studio City since 2011. In 2016 when the business next door closed its doors, she saw a unique opportunity not only to expand her available shooting space but also to offer a new resource to the local creative community.
As with most other big decisions, Justine needed about 5 minutes to convince herself that it needed to happen. With her production designer husband Gary on board, the two set out to design and build out a space that was both beautiful and minimal, with a scandinavian-inspired aesthetic. A space that could easily be transformed for nearly any kind of small event, workshop, photo shoot, pop-up shop or entertainment industry filming.
The couple adopted the mantra #WEWEARBLACK as a symbol of the creative community they are a part of. It also serves as the name of their company, We Wear Black, Inc. under which the Muse brand is held. When you visit Muse, you’ll also see this as a design element in the form of a large neon sign.
What is the main mission of Muse?
- Our mission is always evolving, but essentially we wanted Muse to be a sort of grown-up clubhouse for creatives in the valley. A place where we can find community, socialize, and disconnect from our phones and technology for just a little while and enjoy a performance, learn a new skill, do some sort of good in the world or just to throw a really ridiculous party. It’s also very important to us to help give a leg up to those creatives who are a few (or many) years behind us.
Find community. Disconnect from your phone. Feel nostalgic.
What was it about this space that lead you to set up shop?
- Justine has had her photography studio in the storefront right next door for the past six years. When the business that previously occupied Muse decided to close, she found herself mentally expanding into the space. It had never even occurred to us that this might one day be a possibility. But then the idea took hold and we decided to sign a lease first and decide what to do with it second. And soon we realized that since we already had an existing business infrastructure next door, it wouldn’t be that complicated to take a risk and invent something new. We’re still figuring it out as we go along and just allowing the space to turn into whatever it wants to be…or what our neighbors and creative community want it to be.
Do any of the shows Gary works on influence this space?
- Not really. The design of Muse was all Justine…who sometimes gets cranky when Gary gets all of the design credit. 😉 But Justine loves to follow European and Australian design trends and she always enjoys being able to give input on sets that Gary is working on.
In what way do you see Muse impacting the creative arts community?
- We’ve been delighted to find that many of the people who have come to take one of our creative classes are not necessarily part of the creative arts community. They are lawyers or real estate agents or are in other corporate fields but they long to explore and develop their own creative sides that might go unfulfilled in their work lives. We’ve also found a community starting to build around the space, to know that our friends have a venue for a reading of their new book or for their record release party or for a pop-up shop or even a fundraiser. We’ve met some new friends along the way, people who will show up to every single event we throw, no matter how random or last minute. The coolest thing is to see creatives who don’t otherwise know each other meet, click, and then ultimately end up working together. In LA you just never know who might end up being a great collaborator or influence or help you at some point along the way. And we’re always looking to see who is younger and starting out and how we can maybe give them a push in the right direction, or introduce to the right people who can help nudge their career along.
Where did the name We Wear Black derive from?
- We both only wear black clothes. We literally don’t own anything else, it keeps life simple and streamlined and we feel it represents the lifestyle of the creative professional anyway. Even the walls of our closet are black, it looks kind of like a cave.
In your words, how would you describe the aesthetic of Muse?
- Eclectic Retro Scandinavian. The plain walls and baltic birch paneling with pops of black create a neutral palette so that the space can be easily transformed for different kinds of productions or for events. The candy-colored vintage Heywoodite school chairs were a real find and add fun pops of color and personality to the space. Those and all of the other fun retro decor pieces and pastel props have been collected over the years and have finally found a home at Muse.
Scroll through to see the rest of their amazing space and samples of the events that are thrown here.
For more about Muse, or to book your own creative event visit the Muse site.
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