Sunday, November 29, 2020
Arts + Culture Art Open Studios offers virtual walk-throughs, glimpses into artists' lives

Open Studios offers virtual walk-throughs, glimpses into artists’ lives

The 45-year-old tradition is using Instagram and online parties to introduce the latest work of dozens of creators.


With an array of talent unlike anywhere else in the country, Bay Area artists remind us what it means to live more creative, meaningful lives. These artists help define the city, while at the same time providing snapshots of its rapid changes. Ironically, the local arts ecosystem is routinely in jeopardy. Programs that benefit artists are usually the first to get cut, and skyrocketing rents have made claiming an art studio or home in the city a near impossibility. Now is as good a time as any to recommit to artists by investing in their work. 

And in keeping with a beloved, 45-year-tradition, Artspan will be hosting its Open Studios event virtually this year. These four-installment Open Studio art shows will take place from September 16 through October 14, 2020. And all four are completely free to attend, and include events like preview parties, virtual salons, and a big launch on September 24, 6:30pm-8pm. 

“Like many arts organizations throughout the city, we had to adapt to meet these unprecedented times,” says Artspan’s executive director, Joen Madonna. Another slight adaptation is Open Studios will feature artists from the greater Bay Area region, not just San Francisco. “Artists need our support and the best way to show that support is to buy art,” and with 250 artists featured, there’s something special for every art lover to enjoy.

From paintings to pottery, from sculpture to jewelry, it is hard to adequately capture the range of art featured at Open Studios this year. But one way to learn more about what to expect is to watch Art Span SF’s VAST (Virtual Artist Studio Tours) on its Instagram account. The short, but engaging, video clips showcase several artists as they provide an intimate window into their studios and artistic processes. 

For example, in one VAST clip, MG Stout shows off her colorful expressionist pieces, many of which are based on her own childhood. The videos allow viewers to catch a glimpse of artists’ personalities too. Stout’s bubbly demeanor shines through as she explains her general desire for people to “see themselves” within her art. Her work is perfect for anyone looking for a few silver linings, even during uncertain times. 

Cynthia Tom, a surrealist and found-object artist, is creating work that draws upon her Chinese-American heritage. Her recent paintings use colorful, contrasting images against darker ones, to represent her hope for women’s voices to rise and join in solidarity against patriarchy. Tom’s stunning work, as she comments, uses “clothing and color to represent power” itself.  

Paul Madonna, a renowned pen on paper visual artist, writer and book-maker, allows viewers into his personal studio in his VAST clip, saying that “life and art for me are intertwined.” Madonna has written several of his own books and collaborates with other writers. His forthcoming book, Come to Light, is a four-part mystery novel.

And if you have ever dreamed of owning a Holly Wong piece, now’s your chance. Wong’s work is a combination of assemblaces, installations, and works on paper. She combines both traditional sewing and non traditional techniques in her bright pieces and says that what she loves most about her studio is the “California light.”

Overall, Artspan SF’s Open Studios is staying true to its mission of providing artists with meaningful opportunities to thrive even under shelter in place orders. And thank goodness, because as Wong comments, “my studio is my home.”

Open Studios runs Wed/15 to October 14. For complete guide and schedule of events, click here.

Maddy Clifford
Maddy Clifford is a writer, musician, and educator originally from Seattle. Currently based in Oakland, she’s spent the past 10 years teaching literary arts workshops to local youth.

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