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Newly Restored Aura Arts Building Offers Trackside Studios Room to Grow in the RAD

Photography by Micah Usher of Usher imaging LLC to contact email

Trackside Studios is one part of a large tapestry of dreams, adventures and stories in the River Arts District (RAD). Housed at 375 Depot Street in the newly renamed Aura Arts building, the former meat processing plant built in 1904 went through many iterations before its most recent restoration.

When Michael Allen Campbell and Julie Ann Bell wandered into the building during Studio Stroll, November 2009, the space had been converted into small studios, one of which Campbell rented that December. By 2012, Campbell, Bell and Lynn Stanley joined forces to update a former metalworks shop in the back of the building, restoring windows and adding lighting. “In 2015, we formed Trackside Studios, assuming leases of three contiguous spaces and opening passageways among the rooms,” Bell says.

A commitment the three shared was to support emerging and underrepresented artists and those impacted by personal or financial situations.

“We encouraged the blend of young and outsider artists with established professional artists of the region,” says Campbell, “with a goal of artists learning from one another.”

Photo by Julie Bell

By 2023, with the building for sale and feeling fatigue from years of leadership at Trackside and in the arts district, Bell says “it seemed that it may be time to move to a smaller space and just focus on creating our own art.” Then, in mid-July, Deborah Hellman and her sons Sam and David purchased the building with a vision to not only repair the historic structure but also breathe new life into it through restoration and renovation. Their creativity and enthusiasm motivated Campbell and Bell to reinvest in Trackside Studios, expand upstairs, add a classroom and grow from 30 artists, 12 of whom had been at Trackside Studios since its inception, to more than 60.

“The arts and artists in our community were a significant draw,” says Deborah when describing the decision to purchase the building. Working with contractor Mike Hannah, necessary repairs were made along with re-exposing high ceiling beams and removing walls that divided spaces. To create art display space, Sam brainstormed with Bell and Campbell to design floating walls that maintained the flow of light and air.

The Hellmans’ formula for Aura Arts was “collaborating with the artists, finding the balance of their vision and our vision, and keeping rental prices reasonable.” The importance of their commitment to the arts and artists of the RAD cannot be overstated. Like other areas where artists moved into old buildings and created an aesthetic value, the RAD has attracted increasing development, from cafés and offices to large apartment complexes.

Artists throughout the RAD express concern about increasing rents and diminishing spaces for creativity. Campbell states that “to have a building on Depot Street purchased by a family that supports arts and artists means that Trackside Studios can continue our history of supporting a wide range of artists—from those who are right out of art school to those who never studied art to those who reclaimed their love of creating later in life. We are proud to be part of the ongoing creative energy of the RAD.”

Trackside Studios is located at 375 Depot Street, in the River Arts District. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and by appointment. Learn more at

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