THE ART OF THE OPEN STUDIO
At least once a year local arts organizations sponsor a chance for art-lovers to visit the studios of participating artists, who thereby hope to achieve two main objectives: show off the fruits of their labors to interested observers, and sell a lot of it. Unfortunately, the emphasis on selling art has undercut the experience of being in a space where serious art-making is happening. The result is that the fascinating bones of a working studio have been covered up with the fancy dress of a retail store / gallery, and the chance for outsiders to see some of the drama behind-the-scenes in a real artist’s workplace is lost to the high-gloss surface sheen of a commercial enterprise.
Living in an economic depression doesn’t inspire much confidence to buy art, of course. What’s worse, though, is the paltry attention given to art in the educational system, where an ongoing depression of ignorance steadily diminishes the demand for the supply that is being offered. Working artists are just about the last line of defense against such institutional indifference, which is ignoring a hunger in our culture for the making of things of beauty. Encouraging people to pay attention “to that man behind the curtain” might unveil more than a few levers and blinking lights–it just might inspire a longing to be a part of a real artistic expression.
So, all you open artists out there–don’t tidy up that studio, don’t put on a clean pair of jeans, don’t waste a lot of money on temporary display racks. Do put on a pot of coffee, pull on your best paint-spattered smock, and get to work–just like any other day. When the guests stop by, welcome them in, introduce the model, be ready to talk all the shop anyone can stand to hear, and amaze everyone with the skill and hard work that makes the magic of your particular beautiful thing.
Originally published November 7, 2011