How I've lived just a mile up the street for so long and not spent a full day in this sprawling artist collective is beyond me, but I'm so happy I went. To say the 450 Harrison Street studios were inspiring would be an understatement... here were painters, sculptors, jewelry makers and others creating huge, beautiful bodies of work in various sized brick-walled studios, full of natural light, all decorated and worked in and made "just so" by the individual artists inhabiting them. Just being around so much talent and art made me want to run back to my studio and create immediately!
I was told that the building is not a "juried" collective, meaning that there's no one deciding that particular artists do or don't get studio space (tenancy is based on a waiting list) so there was a very broad range of mediums, styles, sizes, etc. to check out, and a lot of visitors buying many different kinds of art. Some artists had just graduated from art school, while others had been in their studios for a decade. Here were a couple of my favorite artists and their studios:
(A little background: I was so excited to finally meet Paul Pedulla after seeing his work in so many places - all by accident! I first saw his paintings in a gallery in Provincetown, MA this summer and then was pleasantly surprised to see more a few weeks later at my print shop, where I found he also goes to get his work scanned. AND THEN upon walking into the open studios lobby, his name was the first one I saw on the list of studio artists. See, Paul? It was fated by the universe for me to come pick your brain about art.)
Some of my long-time readers might know I have a total soft spot for encaustic artwork, so it was a real treat to visit the studio of Linda Cordner, whose ethereal encaustic artwork is both dreamily abstract and full of interesting details such as hand-stamped batik shapes and lines.
These are just a handful of the talented artists I met at SOWA Open Studios. Everyone I encountered was so friendly and more than happy to chat with me about their work and process. SOWA was a bit of a new experience for me, because I'm finally at the point where I'm able to invest in large fine art and actually consider buying the pieces I felt drawn to. It was very difficult to leave empty handed. It was also interesting because currently, my work is outgrowing my home studio and seeing these beautiful workspaces got me daydreaming about having my own soon (although it was surprisingly difficult to get a solid answer on exactly how to get on the waiting list here. Bummer.)
One thought I kept having throughout the afternoon was how "user-friendly" open studio events are. I think something that keeps a lot of art lovers (and potential art buyers) from going out and viewing fine art in person is that the idea of visiting galleries can be overwhelming or even a little intimidating. Have you ever felt this way? Likewise, sometimes upon visiting a gallery it's noticeable when a curator or salesperson "turns off" or loses interest in explaining the art or interacting because they think a visitor isn't going to make a purchase right away.
Open studio events are probably the exact opposite of that; visitors can take their time and take in the entire scope of the art-making process: seeing artist sketches tacked up on the walls, checking out their in-process work and materials and meeting the people behind the images. Artists also don't usually "turn off" - while the goal is to sell artwork and be financially viable, most artists also want their vision appreciated and love to share their goals and ideas even if it doesn't turn into a sale. Fine artists are - wait for it - real people! Most of them don't even bite :)
Whether you're hunting for a specific piece or just enjoy being in the presence of good artwork... you won't be disappointed at SOWA. So go! Grab a coffee next door and check it out. And tell me what you find.
SOWA Open Studios & First Fridays are located at 450 Harrison Street in Boston's South End. Dates are listed here.