by Laura Lee Mattingly
Throughout the neighborhoods of SF, galleries are getting creative to escape creeping rent increases and possible eviction. From awe-inspiring natural surroundings like Ocean Beach to the popular cable car lines of North Beach, to vibrant street art in the Mission, each neighborhood offers a unique vibe and community that informs the local art scene, making for diverse gallery experiences throughout the city. Many gallery owners live and work in the same neighborhood, further strengthening their connection to the place and community. Here, we visit four vibrant SF neighborhoods to talk to galleries that have been instrumental in supporting ArtSpan, SF Open Studios, and local artists.
Owners: Rab Terry and Jennifer Farris Neighborhood: Polk Gulch
What’s your favorite thing about your location? For the past three years we’ve hosted a neighborhood “paint-out” of sorts called 94109, for which we invite artists to create pieces inspired by something in our zip code. This spring we partnered with a third-grade class from a nearby elementary school to display the kids’ work in one of our shows. Our customers loved it—we sold everything—and it was such a blast to have the kids visit the gallery.
How have you managed to keep your doors open? After the building of our old Polk street location sold, our rent would increase when our lease was up, so we started looking around right away. We quickly figured out that it made more sense to buy a place than rent. It was a very long process to find the right space, wait for the building to be completed and finish the mountain of paperwork—but we’re so glad we did it. The gallery finally has a permanent location, and we don’t have to worry about another massive rent increase.
How did you get connected with ArtSpan and SF Open Studios? Rab Terry, one of the gallery owners, is an artist and has participated in SF Open Studios at the Hunters Point Shipyard for a long time, since dinosaurs roamed the earth (or the ‘90s).
What have been some of your favorite experiences working with SF Open Studios artists? This year we intentionally scheduled artist Josh Coffy’s upcoming solo show in the gallery to coincide with SF Open Studios in our neighborhood, and we’re really looking forward to having the artist in the gallery for the whole weekend.
SECESSION ART & DESIGN
Owner: Eden Stein Neighborhood: The Mission
How long has your gallery been open? We’ve been open since 2007. We are thrilled to celebrate nine years of supporting over 60 independent artists and designers!
Why did you choose that location for your gallery? Have you been at the same site for the whole time? The Mission Street location chose me in 2005; I had started doing pop-ups and curation at Levy Art & Architecture at 3361 Mission to supplement my teaching career. When the architecture firm moved in 2007, I took over their lease. At that point, I switched careers from an early childhood educator to gallery and boutique owner and curator. I never looked back. In 2014, my landlords did not renew my lease and put me month-to-month. With a lot of love and community support, I found Secession’s new home just two blocks down at 3235 Mission.
What’s your favorite thing about your location? I love my location because I see many of the same people every day. We say hello, we look out for each other, and community is built because we all have a shared vision for our neighborhood to be vibrant and successful. We support each other and watch each other grow. For instance, I was the curator at The Front Porch for six years, and I also curated at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack. This is a great way to connect the food and art scenes in the neighborhood.
How did you get connected with ArtSpan and SF Open Studios? Why do you think it’s important to support SF Open Studios artists? I started a jewelry company called Twelve Designs: Modern Vintage Jewelry in 2001 and participated in SF Open Studios by setting up a table at Art Explosion. I got to know a lot of important artists early in their careers back in those days. SF Open Studios gives artists a specific date for which to produce high quality art that, if seen by the right collector, could change an artist’s passion into a successful career.
3 FISH STUDIOS
Owners: Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin Neighborhood: Outer Sunset / Ocean Beach
How did you choose your current studio location? We’ve been open for 10 years and are currently located in an old grocery store built in 1917, with high ceilings that provide us with a great wall for displaying work. We have a large back yard where we can host music events or just gather for a few beers.
How have you managed to keep your gallery location where it is and the doors open? We are artists first. Our gallery is an extension of our studio, so as long as we have a studio practice we will always have a gallery. That keeps us focused on our own work, and allows us to work a bit outside the typical gallery model.
How did you get connected with ArtSpan and SF Open Studios? We both used to have regular 9 to 5 jobs back in the ‘90s, until we happened across ArtSpan manning a table at an art bar we used to frequent. At that time, Annie and I spent a lot of time at home painting and making things. We were told that that was enough to participate in SF Open Studios, so we signed up. That was in 2004, and we’ve been doing it ever since.
What have been some of your favorite experiences working with SF Open Studios artists? More than anything, we love swapping information about shows, galleries, and venues to display work, and running into each other at all the ArtSpan events throughout the year. It really is a dynamic, kind, engaging community and we are thrilled to be part of it.
Owners: Kim Larson and Bradley Platz Neighborhood: North Beach
Why did you choose this location for your gallery? We’ve lived in North Beach for over a decade. Our first gallery location six years ago was a beautiful space just down the street from our home, coincidentally in the same building as the café where Bradley had his first art show in 2003. Neighborhood connection is really important to us. We wanted to energize our immediate environment and bring great art to the neighborhood. We moved the gallery in 2014 to avoid a steep rent increase brought on by a change of ownership.
What’s unique about your neighborhood? North Beach has a vibrant and diverse art scene and we all get together once a month for North Beach First Fridays, an art walk throughout all the galleries and creative spaces.
How have you managed to keep your gallery doors open? Two words: The Internet. Just kidding… but it’s halfway true. We moved the gallery when we needed to. We buckled down during the early years, and we have used social media, ecommerce, and a strong web presence to reach new markets and connect to collectors around the world.
What have been some of your favorite experiences working with SF Open Studios artists? This year marks our 3rd ArtSpan Hub show at the gallery, which has been a really exciting way for us to connect with new local artists and to help promote their work. We also have had a few incredible artist mixer events at the gallery organized by ArtSpan and Quiet Lightning, which have brought together local writers and artists.