About to begin its 42nd year, SF Open Studios — SFOS — is the longest running open studio event in the country. In 2017, ArtSpan, the organization behind SF Open Studios, has extended the program to cover five weekends, bridging the gap between San Francisco-based artists and the general population.
The free event, which begins the weekend of October 14 and 15, will feature the work of over 800 local artists. Each weekend, SF Open Studios will take place in a different area of the city, with a map and schedule available on ArtSpan’s website. The event begins with Bayview on the first weekend, with the Western Addition, NoPa, Hayes Valley, and many other nearby neighborhoods celebrating SF Open Studios on the fourth weekend, November 4 and 5. Participating artists’ studios will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bayview is also home to one of the biggest SF Open Studios events each year — the Hunters Point Shipyard Artists — HPSA. The nation’s largest art community opens its doors to the public October 14 and 15, offering free admission and even boasting ample free parking. The event will include an Annual Art Auction, and plenty of food and beverage vendors.
Since 1975, SF Open Studios has been a way for San Francisco locals to connect with artists living and working within the community. At first, the event was simply a collection of artists who agreed to open their studios to the public for one weekend. It existed that way as a small, private enterprise, until ArtSpan was founded in 1991 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation to manage the growing event.
ArtSpan is currently managed by a board of directors that includes former Chief Curator of ARTworkSF, Matt McKinley. Based on the belief that art and artists play a vital role in contemporary society, ArtSpan works to create inclusive art experiences in San Francisco, and showcase the unique talent of San Francisco artists throughout the world.
According to Program Director Allison Snopek for ArtSpan, the unique history of SF Open Studios and the creative arts in San Francisco is what fuels the team’s passion. While she does note that ArtSpan manages the promotion and organization surrounding the event, she also admits that “without the enthusiasm of the artists, it wouldn’t happen.”
ArtSpan’s goal since the beginning has been to bring SF Open Studios to a broader, more inclusive audience. According to Snopek, that takes many forms. The organization works with business and studios throughout the city to make sure their programs reach a diverse audience. This was the driving force in increasing the duration of the event this year from four weekends up to five.
Although SF Open Studios is its flagship program, ArtSpan is host to nearly a dozen scheduled programs taking place throughout the year. These programs include organized community efforts to create art in public spaces; development workshops for aspiring artists; mixers to bring artists together with other communities; and seminars for art collectors on how to support local artists.
Coinciding with SF Open Studios once again this year is ArtSpan’s newer initiative — SFOS Hub Exhibitions. Since 2013, ArtSpan has partnered with local business to presents sneak previews of the work of SF Open Studios artists. The 2017 art will be on display in NoPa’s Madrone Art Bar and The Mill, as well as All Good Pizza, Butchertown Gourmet, Market on Third, Trifusion Yoga Studio, and 3rd Street Village Gallery in Bayview. These showings also present additional opportunities for artists to sell their work.
Members of the organization, as well as the artists, believe in the power and value of those opportunities. Erik Rewitzer, one-half of the artist duo behind San Francisco’s 3 Fish Studios, and a board member for ArtSpan, illustrates the symbiotic way in which the organization helps artists, collectors, and the community. Rewitzer, who first joined SF Open Studios in 1998, said, “Open Studios gave me the framework for active engagement with the public regarding the viewing and selling of my art.”
Not only is he able to keep more from the sale of his art by eliminating galleries and selling directly at SF Open Studios, but the event has helped him build a community that can help sustain his career throughout the year. He points out that one of the biggest struggles of working as an artist in San Francisco is finding affordable studio space. As a board member for ArtSpan, part of his focus is to ensure the city has affordable spaces for artists to work, and to provide “some security in keeping it affordable.”
ArtSpan consistently reaches out to artists that represent minority communities, including offering subsidization of the fee for participating in SF Open Studios. Even without assistance, individuals can join as a Participating Artist, enabling them to participate in Hub Exhibitions, Mentorships, and putting them on the map for the event, for $70. The organization also offers a discount on fees for students.
ArtSpan subsists on membership fees, donations, and both corporate and individual sponsors. Their recent sponsors include Grants for the Arts, Blick Art Materials, and many local restaurants, hotels, studios, and other businesses. Information about SF Open Studios, including a map and schedule, can be found on the organization’s website at http://www.artspan.org