ArtSpan Open Studios: An Easy How-To

32nd Annual ArtSpan San Francisco Open Studios
Weekend 1: October 6 Private Preview Gala, October 7 Exhibition Opening
All Weekend 2-5 events: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Weekend 2: October 13-14 Western SF
Weekend 3: October 20-21 Central SF
Weekend 4: October 27-28 Eastern SF
Weekend 5: November 3-4 Hunters Point Shipyard

Yes, “Open Studios” is daunting. Exhausting. Even those of us with limitless stamina for seeing art feel weak the day-of and choose to stay in and swiffer the apartment instead. But this is the ultimate backstage pass. It’s an amazing opportunity- not only to buy art that makes your heart flutter at the very reasonable prices, but to also make friends with the artist himself. And there's a one-in-a-zillion chance that this same painting could pay for your kid’s college education some day.

No, you’re not imagining it; there is a distinct similarity to the undignified modern courtship ritual called speed-dating. For the unscorched, here's a quick synopsis: arrive at a downtown bar that is indistinguishably waxing or waning in popularity, sign in with the host. Speak to 20 members of the opposite sex for 5 minutes each (ladies stay seated as the men switch seats) and record important characteristics in dim light with a pen that is running out of ink. When you get home that night and log on to fill in the online ballot, hope that the clues you wrote to yourself are enough to jog your memory and that your can’t-take-it-back Y or N vote for each of the people you met that night is what you really want, and that the object of your affection feels the same way. However, unlike speed-dating, the Open Studios artist always wants you. With little effort on your part, you are guaranteed to find yourself in her bedroom because it doubles as her studio.

In past years, Open Studios caused brain fog and temporary amnesia after a day of driving, parking, looking for quarters, climbing to mold-scented attics and basements, begging forgiveness from meter maids, and then getting back in the car to go to the next studio.

But this year things will be different. There are ways to make the eight weekend days easier to navigate.

1. Narrow it down. Visit the Open Studios Exhibition at SomArts Gallery, 934 Brannan Street at 8th, Wednesday-Friday, Noon-4pm, Saturday & Sunday, 10am-5pm through October 28. Almost every artist participating in Open Studios has donated a work to this exhibition. Artists’ featured works are a good representation of their overall oeuvre so you can quickly see what appeals to you. Most of the paintings and sculptures on view (priced from $100-$3000) sold at the opening night party on Saturday, October 7, so don’t get frustrated if you see something you would have liked to buy. Just make a mental note to attend the kick-off party next year.

2. Get the guide. If you can’t make it to SomArts, go to this website to learn where you can pick up a copy near you. It’s a beautiful glossy magazine style book with an example of each artist’s work and clear mapping and scheduling information.

3. Do a little homework. Don’t just peruse the guide. Spend some time looking at the websites of the artists you have decided you like. Plot out who you will see each weekend.

4. Hire a car service. PlanetTran eco-friendly hybrid car service costs $60 per hour. Avoiding parking drama makes the investment a bargain. (Invite two friends and divide by three.)

5. Bring your checkbook. These guys do not take credit cards. Open Studios’ artists run the gamut from gallery-represented types to newly minted, just-quit-my-job-to-paint-full-time artists who have barely managed to scrape together the $175 fee to participate in the program.

6. Do not haggle. These prices are already low. IF you are buying more than one piece from a single artist then it is acceptable to ask if the artist would consider giving you a discount on your second purchase.

7. Don’t dawdle. If you walk in the door and don’t care for what you see, two minutes and a pleasant “thank you” is enough.

8. Sign the guest book. Get on the mailing list and follow his career!