By Angela Greco
The presence of the tech scene may be prominent on the skyline of San Francisco, but every year local artists join forces in hosting one of the city’s largest artful happenings, reminding residents and tourists alike of the uniquely vibrant art culture that is still alive and well in the Bay Area.
ArtSpan, an organization supporting and preserving San Francisco’s inimitable creative arts scene is hosting their annual and largest production – SF Wide-Open Studios (SFOS). While September marks one of the city’s largest corporate events, Salesforce’s infamous Dreamforce, local artists and art lovers prepare for a different, more colorful kind of event.
For two glorious months nearly 500+ artists host happy hours, opening celebrations, traditional open studios, sidewalk pop-ups, and virtual happenings. Stemming from a small group of artists who concurrently opened their studios to the public in 1975, SFOS is still contributing to the accessibility of artists’ work nearly 50 years later.
In a press release statement, ArtSpan Executive Director Joen Madonna emphasized the importance of supporting the art community who were hard hit by the p andemic. She said, “There is no better way to support [artists]than to get out there and buy some art. Open Studios is always a wonderful occasion to explore different parts of the city, meet people from our community, and reconnect with what makes this such a remarkable place.”
San Francisco resident and artist Soad Kader is proudly celebrating her twentieth year participating in SFOS. Every year she looks forward to not only sharing her work, but connecting with art lovers from all over. She called the event “an annual celebration of the year’s work” – a time to reunite, reflect and catch up with others.
With her level of experience, Kader has seen firsthand the fluidity and innovation of the art community over the years. Since last year was all virtual, it has widened the scope of artists and art lovers who did not need to be local to appreciate the experience. As Kader said, “the more inclusive the better.”
Studio artist and ArtSpan Program Assistant, Nick Maltagliati, understands how exposure and accessibility is a predominant part of the practice. He said as an artist, “we are essentially our own business.” The exposure and creative freedom from this event is the backbone for an artist’s livelihood.
SFOS participating artist Susan R. Kirshenbaum used naked subjects for her work, displayed Oct. 2 at San Francisco Women Art Gallery, inviting viewers to question the comfort they feel in their own skin. She stated on her card that, “It is fundamental for my art to reveal our natures and to remain uncensored. Art is the way I express my activism.”
Another element quietly on display is art’s ability to continuously incite change. An addition to this year’s events includes the development of a mobile web app. Anyone can filter events by certain dates, locations and even artists, essentially customizing a location to what is nearby.
“It’s promotion, it’s getting your name out there. Having that guide is like an artist’s directory.” Maltagliati said. He added that the program has evolved so drastically over the years, but always with the artist and art lover in mind.
Kader pointed out how especially vital the arts were during the past year. She said, “Imagine what the lockdown would have been without music, movies and television, or literature. For me, the art that was on my walls was like my friends. It reminded me of people and experiences and times in my life – The art around me created a certain vibrancy that helped so much.”
Just as Kader’s recent work highlights the interconnectedness of shared humanity, the underlining artistic perspective is a reminder to the importance and accessibility of connection.
Despite the ever present techie takeover or the unpredictable setbacks of the past year, the power of art remains consistent and strong. Through whichever creative outlet speaks to your soul, the arts will undeniably remain essential to the human experience.