Despite an exodus of artists and art spaces in San Francisco, Joen Madonna continues to push the art community to the forefront of local cultural happenings as the executive director of ArtSpan. This weekend, ArtSpan’s 40th annual citywide Open Studios will arrive in the Mission, with artists around the neighborhood opening up their workspaces to thousands of members of the public.
“In a time where we as a city are losing our art community, we need to support the artists more than ever,” said Madonna. “I’ve been working really hard with local arts groups and City Hall to help stem the tides of this crazy displacement that’s been happening. But really, the best way to support the arts is to go out, meet the artists, and buy their work.”
DK Haas, who has her studio at 1890 Bryant Street, praised ArtSpan’s work in bringing attention to local artists and creating community, and is cautiously hopeful for good turnout this year.
“I have heard from other artists doing open studios in the city that it’s been an incredible year, that they had a lot of visitors, and it’s been really busy,” Haas said. “I try to keep my hopes measured, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen, so the kind of things that I hope for is that I have meaningful conversations with people about my work.”
ArtSpan grew out of an event organized by a group of artists in 1975 who saw the need for bringing art to the community. The annual event grew into a month-long celebration that now boasts 800 artists and over 50,000 participants. This year’s event kicked off in Hunters Point Shipyard on October 17, where attendance was up from the previous by at least 1,000 people, according to Madonna, who anticipates a large turnout in the Mission District this weekend.
“Because of this discourse that’s happening in our public spaces about how art is threatened right now, I think that people are getting the memo,” she said. “You gotta go out and you gotta support what’s going on. It’s disheartening to know that people from our communities can’t live here – we are trying to make people aware that they can’t take things for granted.”
Claudio Talavera-Ballón, who paints portraits of working-class immigrants and works out of a studio in his home, says he sees those faces starting to disappear from the neighborhood and is lucky to be able to stay himself. He will open up his home studio for visitors during open studios.
“They are being forced out of the Mission, as well as some artists… Not only immigrants are disappearing but middle income folks like teachers, nurses, journalists, etc are disappearing, too.” he wrote in an email. “We are lucky to have rent control and a conscientious landlord. Otherwise we couldn’t afford to live here.”
Photographer Christopher Turner is one of the artists who will be turning his studio space at 1890 Bryant St. into an open house.
At his Mission studio, Turner is proud to share a “work-in-progress” with open studio participants this weekend – a series of portraits and video interviews documenting the city’s “LGBT community over 60.”
“So many younger people, whether they are part of the LGBT community or not, don’t really understand or know about …what’s been going on in the last 40 years,” said Turner. “Its fascinating talking to people and getting their stories of what it was like growing in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and to hear about their struggles.”
Once a Mission resident, Turner attests to the displacement in his community. “I think its immensely important to give the space to the artists that have managed to stay in the city. Many have left because its so expensive. Over the years, Open Studios has been a time when people come out and support local art– I think its fascinating that this tradition continues.”
Still, the arts scene in the neighborhood refuses to stop growing and developing. The Pacific Felt Factory, an arts complex on 20th Street between Bryant and York streets, is joining ArtSpan’s open studios for the first time this year.
Brian Singer, a graphic designer and multimedia artist, just recently secured a studio space at the Pacific Felt Factory, marking his first time ever having a space dedicated solely to his artwork. Singer’s work, however, has appeared in the Mission before, but mostly in the form of mystifying public art. In May, he caused a bit of a hubbub by creating metallic silver door hangers that said “Anything you say can and will be used against you” and depositing them on door handles around the neighborhood. He wanted to draw attention to the “mob justice” citizens inflict on each other by spotlighting each other’s behavior on social media. Known online as “Some Guy,” this will be Singer’s first chance to discuss his work with an audience face to face.
“I’ve attended open studios before, but just as a spectator,” he said. “It’s nice to actually be in a physical space with other human beings and be able to discuss the work and have people see it in person.”
Something similar is happening at the bar and grill Dear Mom on 16th Street and Treat Avenue, where four painters will be exhibiting their work during open studios. Abigail Drapkin, Megan Posas, Rafe Mischel and Chamisa Kellogg have no studios of their own to open to the world, which means they, like Singer, will use the event as an opportunity to meet art lovers in person.
“Normally Open Studios take place in the artist’s own studios, but since all four of us currently work out of our homes, we’ve joined together to take part in Artspan’s 40th year promoting local artists in San Francisco,” Drapkin wrote. “Dear Mom’s owners have been kind enough to host us this month and take no commission so all proceeds from artwork sales go directly to the artists.”
Open studios festivities begin tonight, with receptions at the Pacific Felt Factory from 6 to 9 p.m., Dear Mom from 6 to 9 p.m., Secession Art & Design from 6 to 8 p.m., and 1890 Bryant Street from 6 to 9 p.m.
Here’s a map of all the open studios on the menu tomorrow and Sunday: