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Volunteer Meeting Minutes

Tuesday August 3, 2012

Summer Sessions III: Home Studios and Community Space

location: home of Rowan McVey, 41 Gibbens St.
time: 7pm - 8:30pm
minutes recorded by Nicholas Shectman


Present

Sarah Bettencourt, Community Space coordinating for several years
Rachel Mello, Coordinator 2013, SOS participant for 8-10 years, Mad Oyster Studios.
Nancy Anderson, SOS for 1 year, oil painter, portraits, exhibited in cafe, work out of home but didn't want to show from there, would love to show in a space where I could meet people.
Jeff Fullerton, photographer, show at my house, put photos up on fence, SOS for 6 years.
Randy Ross, did spoken word trolley last year, SOS for 1 year.
Jim and Jennifer Downes, show from their home.
Katya Popova, has not participated, planning to from Armory or garage or ... ?
Gessica Silverman, Mad Oyster, SOS for 1 year.
Peter Belford, board of directors, painter at Vernon St
Aram Comjean, web site, SOS for 5 years.
Matt Kaliner, doing dissertation on open studios at Harvard.
Matt Carrano, painter, Central St, board of directors, past President and coordinator, SOS since the beginning
Nicholas Shectman, board of directors, past SOS coordinator, taking notes
Stan Eichner, SOS participant for 1 year, armory, photographer
Ellen Ellerbie, just moved here from England, working on Community Space Coordinator for 2013
Aaron Ellerbie, SOS for past 2 years. Showed out of friends home, not sure if next year out of own home or not.
Rowan McVey, shows from a home studio, SOS participant for 4 years, Membership Coordinator for 2013.
Ron Newman, community fan of SOS

Discussion

Rachel: Thanks everyone for coming. Tonight we want to look at what kind of participation we have, and specifically how the event looks for people who are in home-spaces or community space. To give a little context, We have about 400 participating artists, 130-200 new every year. Some of that is people taking a year off and returning. 300 are in artist buildings of 25 or more. That leaves about a quarter of our membership in homes or community space.
- People in houses need to get traffic, how do we get people there?
- Home studios have different needs than studio buildings.
- Some home studios are suitable for showing and some not.
- Some visitors love to see how a home studio works, some are uncomfortable in homes
- Some artists don't really have dedicated studio space at all.

Katya: I was impressed with brickbottom. Artists not trying too hard, but very welcoming and open. Let people roam and discover, makes a good adventure. Some artists working during SOS, interesting to watch and personal but not directly welcoming.

Rowan: How to get past immediate discomfort people feel when walking in to my living room. There's no social script for them to follow. Better when there are more people but that doesn't happen as much.

Gessica: visitors felt awkward all up and down my street. Garage or more open to the street layouts help.

Katya: make a joke of it.

Gessica: they're art lovers and buyers but it still feels invasive to them.

Peter: Same dynamic in buildings, but people feel less bad about walking out, or more people makes it easier for them. Home studios are harder to get people to come to. People like to see more artists in one stop.

Matt C(?).: People will go where there are more artists, but also the question of comfort is real.

Nick: I feel more comfortable if the artists have some friends over

Randy: Or if it feels like a business

Jeff: Outside solves the awkward. Having my family around helped.

Rachel: The problem is there *is* a social script for walking into someone's house and it's the wrong one. People get used to studio visits to some extent. What do you do when you walk in and hate the work? In a building you just leave. In a house how long do you stay to be polite?

- How to have more connection while stuck in our houses? Big buildings and community space make exhibiting a meet your art neighbors kind of thing

Katya: Brickbottom residents did not really seem aware of each other? [is /Brickbottom/ possibly /Vernon/, here and above?]

Rachel: Many brickbottom residents have studios outside Brickbottom.

Peter: How many people in houses can actually show in their studio?
[All home-artists here are photographers, and “studio” is hard to define in this context]

Jessica: Everyone cleans up to the point where the studio is a fiction

Aram: people doing interesting processes who don't clean up are really interesting.

Sarah: Showing outside really helped people wander in and out. Chairs and food, nothing elaborate. Maybe it was just my location but I had a lot of traffic. I had a huge sign outside saying what kind of free food I had. People who didn't want to talk about art could talk about food.

Katya: A wild goose chase? Could engage

Aaron: Have we put together a tips sheet for artists?

Matt C.: Not specific to home studios (and maybe not well publicized).

Rachel: Let's have some workshops. Play-act a visit? Get an acting school involved? in March. A tip sheet on the web site you have to go get, a workshop is interactive and helps connect to others.

Jim: You get people who come in for 2 minutes, feel uncomfortable and leave, people who will stay almost the whole open studios.

Jennifer: really?

Jim: We had those people who stayed for 4 hours. We send people to nearby studios and vice versa, and invite nearby artists over in the morning or evening. We had a professional bubble machine blowing out into the street. We put up signs blocks away, sidewalk chalk, ... We like to meet people at meeting and the museum. Want to start a monthly idea/chat artists group.

Nancy: It's too bad there's no way to get neighborhood spaces. Maybe someone with a huge driveway with a tent.

Rowan: more than 1 artist in a house is definitely more of a draw.

Katya: I might be able to host something like that in my new extra garage...

Rachel: We have an offer of a driveway in Union Square... promising, requires advance planning for tent rental. How much can we help facilitate? This recapitulates how community space used to work. That was a lot of work and people didn't like the spaces assigned and it was more work.

Nick: but it being neighborhood based is new?

Katya: My roommate is in ENSMB, could have them play on the roof of these garages...

Rowan: One tip: Try to have a few pieces outside even if you're not mostly showing outside.

Jim: We put laminated (illustrated?) artist statements on our door

Rachel: By the time people come in your house they've decided to come in, more invested.

Jennifer: In Hyannis they have artist shanties, rented out by the day, could we do that in Foss Park? Year round maybe?

Rachel: Should we do outdoor community space? What about wildly serious weather like a microburst?

Matt: We never really explored this idea. Rent a tent? What spaces to use?

Rowan: Tufts?

Nancy: Powderhouse park?

Rachel: What would it cost to rent a bunch of 10x10 tents like Ahts Boston, compared to cost of renting Armory? Or one large tent so it has more of a community feel? Maybe on the City Hall loop?

Peter: Not everyone likes the Armory. used to use lots of businesses as Community Spaces, but artists felt used and unhappy. Armory is accessible and beautiful and centrally located, but crowded, and individual artists get jealous of traffic-draw as they do of larger studios. Also has turned into a craft fair.

Rachel: Lets not get into the art vs craft conversation.

Jeff: a friend of mine showing at their studio had someone in and try to buy the house because they thought it was a realty open house.

Rachel: Did they get a good offer for it? [laughter]

someone: “Buy this painting for 500,000 and you also get this free house!"

Jim: What about union square plaza? Festivals there charge $40 including a table.

Rachel: Arts Council will likely support any efforts of ours that also support that neighborhood

Aaron: I have been showing out of my friend's home, had been meeting as a sketch and chat group weekly, also had another group of friends there, art everywhere. This is Len White. He did a demo using plastic easter eggs, color and pattern demos. I let people try out my art tablet. We had someone with a video of some 3d animation. Last year we had a 3d printer and people could make models of anything they designed. Lots of interactivity. Lots of traffic. Don't know how promotion was done or if demo schedule was publicized. Balloons, posters, FB, email, nothing especially unusual in *type* of promotion but having many artists made people feel more comfortable, more likely to be something visitors like and they go talk to whoever that is.

Peter: Demos have a [social] script.

Nick: Or performances, mixed in with visual artists, people know how to interact.

Matt: Cambridgeport is nearly all home studios. JP is like us. West Medford is mostly homes. Many OS are single building OS events. Once I'm in a home I don't know what city I'm in as long as there's cookies and hummus. Lots of variation in home studio types but across cities. My favorite thing about OS is seeing people's houses, how people live and make their art.

Nick: Chris A made a game out of this.

Nancy: Had someone contact me for a series they were writing about artists in their spaces. But once I said I worked out of my house, they never followed up. [NB: after meeting Nancy email to ask the writer what happened. Writer is still interested, just didn't follow up. Home studio appears not to be an issue after all]

Jim: tablet demos. Also we do our own flyers.

Rachel: It's gotten to be 8 already. Let's take a little break for 10 minutes then come back to wrap up and make sure we haven't missed any topics we wanted to at least touch on.

Break

Resume Discussion

Rachel: We have 15 more minutes. We talked about community space some already, but let's talk about that more and be sure to cover the bases. before this meeting I emailed artists registered to community space and asked for written feedback if they couldn't make the meeting. I got a lot of feedback saying 'I love the Armory,' a couple of people saying I needed more wall space. Sarah will know more answers to questions. Sarah helped bring us to the Armory from our previous space which was a couple of church basements. The basement of Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church got very little traffic. Of 7 artists 5 left for the weekend. It was depressing.

Rachel: We also had St Anne's the last year we used church spaces. It's beautiful but nobody was there. All the awkward of going into someone's house, even with 9 artists. Maybe churches just have a stigma.

Sarah: Its not that we wanted everyone together, we just didn't like being in a church basement. No one was happy as Stinky's or other businesses except Cameras Inc. The Armory was the best big space, brand new, they barely got their their occupancy permit in time. It's energizing and exciting.

Sarah:I like that there are people who start there because they feel more comfortable. Also there are veterans and people who do the craft fair circuit. There's a great community and people advise each other on display tools and such.

Stan: I have a reasonably large house but it's not accessible, and I have lots of friends with disabilities and that is important to me so I show in community space. When I talk up the show people know the Armory. People who don't like my work can just keep going, they're not stuck. Or they share complete options if they're into it.

Ron: If we did not have the Armory everyone would ask why we didn't. Everyone know it because so many arts events happen there. It'd be a crime not to use it.
More partitions would be good.

Rachel: If we don't use the Armory that weekend someone else will and they won't be part of SOS.

Peter: If the costs go up it will be harder to cover it even with the extra fee that community space artists pay, and we'd like the total cost of being in the Armory to stay under $100. Even though the artists all think the extra money is worth it.

Aram: It'd be nice to have more space than just the Armory.

Rachel: I got contacted by a church in Teele Square who wanted to offer space. We could tell people Armory is but there is free space in a church. But now we're making two kinds of spaces and this is more of a conversation than we can have today.

Rachel: What's the real purpose of community space. What does it provide and what does it take away from? Does creating a central art event hurt people showing out of their home, which is ironic as it was intended to help them.

Rowan: It definitely draws traffic. We're right near the Armory and we only got 20 people.

Rachel: But does it draw traffic to Somerville, or away from home studios? is it really a zero sum game? Some people aren't interested in the armory.

Peter: The stated purpose is for those people who either don't have a studio or aren't comfortable opening their home.

Rachel: SOS is to facilitate all the artists of Somerville showing one way or the other.

Jennifer: People say they wish they could get to more small studios but Vernon takes up all their time.

Jim: Anecdotally it seems like Armory gets more promotion.

Jennifer: Some people do one day in big studio, one at small houses.

Nick: Figure out how the craft show publicity machine works and turn those cranks too.

Sarah: It's so important to get the people who would never show if not for community space and need that push.

Jeff: Challenge is how to get the word out to get past the amazing efficiency of visiting the large buildings. More interactive map? Thumbnail for studios?

Aram: Working on that. Trying to avoid making it favor the bigger locations, compared to the paper map, but that is a challenge.

Aaron: Is web site still up from last year?

Rachel: We leave it up except during the 2 months of registration.

Rachel: And it's 8:35, so we're already over time here. Thank you everyone! There will be September and October meetings but they have not been scheduled yet. Watch your email and keep in touch. Thank you again, Rowan for hosting.