Who’s in the ’Hood?
Open Studios Artists in Hayes Valley
Although October seems like it’s ages away, for artists exhibiting at Open Studios it is very much looming around the corner. Several neighborhood artists will be showing their work during Open Studios this year, and it’s a safe bet that somewhere around the corner from you an artist is moving into high gear to make certain everything is ready in time.
Now in its 30th year, Open Studios is a city-wide event, hosted by the nonprofit ArtSpan, during which artists open their studios to the public and the public gets a glimpse into the spaces where art is made. It is also a wonderful occasion for getting to know your neighbors -- you can go from studio to studio at your own pace, see a large volume of work in different styles and media, talk to artists in their natural habitat, and, best of all for everyone involved, shop for art.
Studios are open in different parts of The City during each weekend in October, and Hayes Valley will get its turn this year during Weekend 2, which falls on October 16-17.
Among the artists opening their doors in Hayes Valley is painter Jennifer Maria Harris. Ms. Harris converted the front “drawing room” of her Victorian flat into a painting studio nearly 10 years ago. Although back when she first started showing at Open Studios it was with a group at a nonprofit gallery, she finds it much more enjoyable to meet and talk to visitors in the less formal setting of her home studio.
“There isn’t really any other environment that’s like Open Studios,” Ms. Harris states. “People are coming in knowing that this isn’t just about buying artwork, although sometimes it is. It’s actually more about them talking to artists, and it’s more about them finding out how we work. I can’t think of any other situation where those are the focuses.”
She also finds that in general people feel much more relaxed in artists’ studios than in galleries or museums and experience less unconscious pressure to “know something” about art. “Some visitors will stay for three hours, talking with me and with other visitors. Others will come in, say a brief hello, spend 30 minutes quietly looking at the artwork, and leave. I’m just as happy with both.”
Whether you choose to camp out or breeze through, there will be more studios open in Hayes Valley this year than last (13, up from 8 in 2004). Not all of our neighborhood artists, however, actually have studios in the neighborhood. Some, like Larry DeDionisio and Martha Sue Harris (no relation to Jennifer Maria), both of whom work in sculpture, painting, and drawing, find it necessary to work elsewhere.
Croc by Martha Sue Harris
Monoprint, 8.5”x5” 2004
As Mr. DeDionisio points out, “There’s no public studio space here, so a lot of people have to go to Art Explosion over by Potrero or to Hunters Point.” He previously worked from a studio near Oak and Van Ness, in what was the old International Student Center and is now becoming the new San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His current studio, on Guerrero near 21st Street in the Mission, is not in an area which gets good foot traffic. “You have to want to go to it to find it,” he says.
Still, he participates in Open Studios every year and finds it rewarding because he enjoys having people come to his studio and values the contacts he makes that way. “You like people to interact with your art,” he explains. But it can also be good on a more personal level: “My best friend is someone I met at Open Studios.”
Lack of foot traffic is not really a problem at Art Explosion, where Martha Sue Harris has her studio. In fact, Art Explosion during Open Studios can look like Macy’s during a clearance sale. The crowds can be a mixed blessing, she says. “It’s great for the mailing list, but you end up selling things which you might otherwise send to a gallery.”
It may sound a little strange to hear complaints about selling too much work, but artists who are in it for the long haul understand that while selling work themselves can help their cash flow, a good gallery is much better for their careers. Galleries can get their work in front of higher-end collectors, into publications, and into a much higher price bracket.
This, of course, brings up a great reason to shop for art at Open Studios: the artwork is likely to be much more affordable to the average shopper than work in a gallery. At Open Studios you’re paying the artist directly without paying the standard gallery commission, which averages around 50% of the sales price.
You can currently find images of work and links to the websites of participating artists on ArtSpan’s website, http://www.artspan.org. To find out where Open Studios artists are showing, pick up ArtSpan’s comprehensive guide book (due out in September) or check out the SF Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Chronicle for the studio maps they publish just before each Weekend.
Open Studios Artists in Hayes Valley
Martha Sue Harris*
*Showing in the Mission