Staff writer Russell Sperberg interviews Terry Knickerbocker on how he created an authentic & holistic sanctuary for his students in his Meisner studio located in Industry City, Brooklyn.
Terry Knickerbocker Studio is not unlike other spaces in Sunset Park’s Industry City complex. Tall ceilings, large windows, and an unmistakable buzz of energy abound. But what’s with the crystals? And water fountains? And why so much red?
As it turns out, these all reflect the Studio’s efforts to create a holistic sanctuary for its students. Health and wellness have always been integral parts of Terry’s approach to both life and actor training. The Studio was built with the belief that space has a profound impact on a person’s psyche and wellbeing. Terry was committed to creating not only a physical space for practice but also an energetic space that supports the actor’s emotional life. To accomplish this, Terry turned to the feng shui expert an author Andie SantoPietro.
Terry first met Andie in 2011 when he hired her to align his home. Feng Shui practitioners like Andie take into account layout, materials, color, and other factors as they seek to orient the energy, or Qi, flow in a space. “When Andie came to our house, I think she spent six hours with us,” Terry recently said. “Those first two and a half were just talking.” As Andie got to know Terry and his wife, the therapist and energy healer Sinead O’Donoghue, she began to understand what they specifically needed energetically in their home. The alignment went so well that Terry immediately thought of Andie when he decided to launch his new acting studio.
At first, Terry imagined a much more modest space:
“We were talking about 1200 square feet; but then we had a session with Andie. She was at my home for three or four hours, and she said, ‘I don’t know, it feels too small. The concept is much bigger than that. I don’t think you need 1200, I think you need 5000.’ And that just seemed impossible and way too big. But Andie opened my and Sinead’s hearts and minds to a much more expansive concept, not just in terms of space, but in terms of how the studio would differentiate itself. For instance – the holistic concept of space. Now that was something I was always doing. I was always sending students to therapy and acupuncture and things like that, but Andie’s the one who brought it into the actual DNA of the studio’s identity.”
According to Andie, the Studio’s holistic mission was intrinsic to their search for the right space. “Terry and Sinead brought the whole concept of feng shui into the creative process. It allowed them the space ahead of time to create an alignment with their creative vision. They went out and found a space that matched the vision and didn’t force a vision into a space, which is what most businesses do.”
After finding the right raw space at Industry City, they turned it over to the architects Robert Schultz and Vrinda Khanna, whose designs, Terry said, “just in terms of the ground plan work very well from a feng shui perspective.” Once the space was finalized and built, Andie began aligning and tuning the space. Terry described a few adjustments: “We changed the alignment of the gray couches. It was Andie’s idea to do the stained glass. She came back a year later and put curtains behind my desk.” Andie continues to drop in and adjust periodically. As one would imagine, there’s a lot of energy in this rigorous Meisner studio. Terry and Andie constantly fine-tune so as to better orient this Qi.
Next week, we’ll explore the specific tools Andie uses to orient Qi in the Studio. Wouldn’t you know it, those crystals and water fountains happen to be involved.
Learn more about Andie and her influential work at www.andiesantopietro.com