Friday, June 10, 2011

What a Difference a City Makes

I have lived in San Francisco for about 18 years now, and for the most part, take for granted the luxuries of living in a decently big city. It's not New York, sure, but the arts community here is pretty active and there are a lot of artists, a large amount of them within a few feet of my art studio, and even more within a few blocks. Because of this, I never realized how hard it must be to have an open studios when one does not live in a city like I do.

Robin arranging a grid of 6"x6" paintings.
This past weekend I visited my friend, Robin Luciano Beaty, while she was preparing for her open studios this Saturday. Robin lives in Byfield, MA. Ever heard of the place? Yeah, me neither. She lives about 40 minutes away (according to google maps, which doesn't take into account traffic) from Boston, and while her town is quite quaint, it is pretty isolated from the art world. There are advantages of living "out in the boonies" though. Robin was able to build herself a dream studio to work in, something you can't do in a big city, but unlike me, she doesn't have hundreds of artists within walking distance. If I want an opinion on something I am working on, I walk over less than 15 feet to fellow artist, Lani Tanaka's studio space (one of the many artists in the same warehouse space) and I have instant feedback. When Robin wants feedback, it's a lot more complicated since she would have to drive a good distance for it or get it via phone or email. It's not an ideal situation, but the beautiful studio, and an incredible amount of space, more than makes up for it.

Some of Robin's larger paintings on her studio wall.
Open studios is another world altogether when you don't live in a city! In addition to getting her artwork and space ready, Robin does her own press releases, makes signs to post in the local town in order to direct more traffic to her, and does all of the advertising needed in order to draw a crowd to her space. She doesn't have Artspan (the organization that puts together a beautiful catalog, preview show, postcards, posters, and a ton of other advertising necessities/ events/ etc. needed to make open studios a HUGE San Francisco-wide event in the Fall) to do all of that stuff for her. She doesn't have the built-in clientele of other artists in the same vicinity visiting her studio because they are in the area already or the random patron who just likes to visit large studio spaces and see many artists' works during the same visit.  If she doesn't get this stuff done, then nobody will and the attendance of her event is non-existent. It's a lot of work that takes weeks of planning and organizing, work that most artists (including myself) would just rather not do, but she does this every year. It's not easy, but if you want a successful event, and you don't have other artists to rely on, you just bite the bullet and do it. Just in the two days that I was there, Robin was a whirlwind of activity trying to get things done. Just watching her made me exhausted.

One of my paintings, amongst Robin's work and
other artists she collects, in her studio
It was during this time that I really started to appreciate the advantages I never knew I had just by living in San Francisco. There are committees and organizations (Art Explosion studios, Artspan, Mission Artists United, to name a few) within other committees and organizations that help to make my open studios, along with HUNDREDS of other artists, a success twice a year. I don't have to worry about much of anything other than doing what I do best, which is paint. These organizations make my life as an artist easier and because of this, I extremely grateful to them and all of their hard work. I don't think many of us could pull it off without them.

Before the clean-up...
BTW, if you are in the area, you should really stop by Robin's studio and see the work and space in person. It's pretty damn impressive! Visit her blog for more information on tomorrow's open studio.

One last studio shot...

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