Bobby Zeik, 31, sits in front of his artwork in his studio at the Banana Factory. Zeik has been working full-time at the Banana Factory for eight years. (Madi Welker/B&W Staff)

Going bananas: Local artists find studio space at the Banana Factory

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Bobby Zeik, 31, always enjoyed drawing, but street art culture is what sparked his inspiration to become an artist.

He always had an innate interest in art, but when street art came along, he started to see art as more than just “pretty stuff on a wall” and loved the danger that came along with street art. That is when he started.

Zeik is now an artist at the Banana Factory on the South Side.

Zeik spent about two years teaching himself the ins-and-outs of what it takes to be an artist for a profession. Eight years later, Zeik now works full time at his studio on the third floor of the Banana Factory.

Ranging from custom layered wood pieces to graphic prints of today’s best rappers, Zeik’s eclectic art collection attracts a variety of buyers.

“I create art through every type of medium, from mixed media to layered wood art,” Zeik said. “I find that the pop art pieces are the best sellers though, they’re very different.”

His studio is filled wall-to-wall with countless kinds of art, from framed prints of David Bowie to spray painted canvases of whatever is on his mind. 

Unlike Zeik, Katelyn Lau is new to the Banana Factory. She and her paintings moved into her studio last month. She said she has been blown away with the atmosphere of the studio and how motivational everyone around the building is.

“It’s really awesome to have so many different talents around you and so many different resources,” Lau said. “The energy is really inspiring and contagious, it keeps you on your toes.”

Although she has only worked at the studio for about a month, Lau has known about the Banana Factory since college. She was always intrigued by the bright yellow sign and questioned “if they make bananas there, or what?”

Lau has been immersed in arts and music since high school. In college, she was originally studying art education until she decided to study studio art, knowing that’s where her passion was. Just like Zeik, her talents started with drawing and progressed into more elaborate paintings.

“I’m really interested in people and gestures, so I get a lot of inspiration from that,” Lau said. “I find a lot of my inspiration also stems from fears of mine. Like time is a huge fear for me, so getting older and realizing how valuable time is.”

Erin Anderson, another artist whose studio is in the Banana Factory, is fascinated with similar aspects of life when it comes to inspiration. She said she has a genuine interest in connecting with people and understanding them better.

“Underneath it all, artists are philosophers in a way, all of the time,” Anderson said. “Our art comes from some sort of personal philosophy and we work through it visually.”

Anderson has had a studio at the Banana Factory for about two years and heard about it after moving to the Bethlehem area. She felt she was born with a desire to create, so now she works in the factory Monday through Friday, devoting all of her time to painting.

When it comes to being an artist for a living, Anderson and Zeik had similar outlooks. Anderson believed she was either going to be an artist or be miserable doing something else. Zeik agreed it can be uncomfortable, but he just had to put himself out there and not be afraid of feeling uncomfortable.

“I have a lot of freedom right now and after I graduated from college, I launched myself in this intensive program that was geared toward realist painting and drawing and now I just make it work,” Anderson said. “You make it work, different people find different ways to make it work but it’s worth it.”

Zeik, Lau and Anderson all expressed their interest in working with Lehigh students and exposing them to all the Banana Factory has to offer.

First Fridays are an event the factory holds on the first Friday of every month where studios are open for the public to come view and discuss with artists.

“It’s really great meeting new people that are interested in art, and it’s exciting to have people come view your stuff,” Anderson said.

She hopes more Lehigh students will come view the studios instead of being confused by the Banana Factory sign when they drive by.

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