ArtSpan Selections: The Best of the Open Studios Artists

ArtSpan Selections 2007, December 6 - 29, 2007, 111 Minna Gallery,

Opening Reception: Thursday, December 6, 2007, Reception ($75), 5 - 7pm, General Reception, 7 - 8:30pm, 111 Minna Gallery,

David Avery, Johanna Baruch, Marie Bourget, Rebecca Chang, Mitchell Confer, Elaine Coombs, Katie Gilmartin, James Gleeson, Joshua Hagler, Ivy Jacobsen, Mark Jaremko, Mike Kimball, Jim Leff, Christopher Leib, Christina Mazza, Laurel Roth, Terry Sauvé, Kathryn St. Clair, Lena Tsakmaki, Christopher Wiedmann

Curious to know whose work was the best of this year’s Open Studios? Well here’s your chance to find out and purchase it as well. The unveiling of the juried ArtSpanSelections” winners will go on display this Thursday at 111 Minna. If you choose to attend the $75 fundraiser event from 5-7pm this Thursday, December 6, you’ll get to hear the curators who chose the winners speak and you’ll be supporting a worthy grassroots organization at the same time (plus enjoy great apps and an open bar).

The not-for-profit ArtSpan isn’t a one trick pony. It's a critical resource for independent artists who don’t have gallery representation and may not have the connections that are a benefit of coming up through the local MFA (Master of Fine Arts) Greek system.

In addition to managing the massive logistics and marketing for the 800+ artists who participate in Open Studios every year, ArtSpan offers valuable professional development services to its members and sponsors Art for City Youth which introduces elementary school students to artists. All this for annual dues of $135.

Juried awards are a common and popular way for the art community to recognize Talent. A typical panel involves a few judges that fit the following archetypes: curator from local museum or non-profit, teacher from an MFA program, gallery director, rounded out by Bay Area artist who has already received critical acclaim. Being picked by a jury panel of this make-up is extremely prestigious and is a great resume builder for an emerging artist.

The Selections jury follows this model. Participating on this panel is Gabe Scott and Eleanor Harwood, their first collaboration with ArtSpan. Their participation is a testament to the efforts of the current Board of Directors which reached out to the two and invited them to participate. (Fellow juror Rene de Guzman has been a friend of ArtSpan for many years.) This board is also responsible for the jazzed up Open Studios program guide this year, which made the neighborhood-by-neighborhood event the easiest it’s ever been to navigate.

Eleanor Harwood of the eponymous Mission-Potrero gallery is a CCA trained artist herself. She made the “Backroom” at Adobe Books famous during her tenure curating that space. This funky cobwebby counter-culture bookstore on 16th Street in the Mission is the place that time forgot. Step gingerly over stacks of books and past the aging hippies engrossed in their manifestos; your reward is a postage stamp sized dynamic art space that generates a lot of talk among art world insiders.

The second judge is Gabe Scott, the director of 111 Minna Gallery where the show will be on display for the next month. 111 Minna is the original art gallery/bar in the city, fittingly located just steps away from SFMOMA’s back door. 111 Minna is known for showing “lowbrow” art and "street art" and for being a big booster of the art community in general, often lending its space to events like this.

Rounding out the panel is Rene de Guzman who needs no introduction to the Bay Area art community. De Guzman was one of the original staff members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and is credited with being the force behind “Bay Area Now,” a must-see show that takes place every three years. After nearly fifteen years with YBCA the Oakland Museum managed to woo him away, an acquisition that bodes well for that venerable institution. De Guzman and a snazzy makeover of the galleries scheduled to start in early ’08 should serve to make that space back into a premier destination.

De Guzman did visit some open studios in October and say he saw some things he liked. “I saw some artists that were new to me and took down their names to follow up later.” De Guzman speaks very highly of ArtSpan and its importance to the San Francisco art community. “I’m very impressed with ArtSpan and their complete commitment to supporting the city’s artists. ArtSpan allows its artists to not only be known in the community at large but also to know each other and strengthen themselves through that dialogue. ArtSpan works with the level of artist who needs the most support: artists who are beginning their practice. We need that foundation to be strong in order for everyone to be successful.”

Harwood also thinks that artists who are dues-paying members of ArtSpan get a valuable service in return. “I think that any organization that manages to give artists exposure is valuable. ArtSpan Selections provides its artists with access to curators that they wouldn’t normally have.”

Eleanor goes on to explain how this jury experience was different from other panel reviews. “This selection process was different from others I have curated in that the review process was ‘blind.’ Usually a curator acting as a juror would review the CV and the artist statement and unavoidably take note if the artist had already received recognition or acclaim in some other format. The work completely spoke for itself using this method of selection.”