Bostonians got a glimpse into the world of local art this weekend during the Fenway Open Studios event, held on Nov. 11 and 12. Artists revealed their creations to the public, hoping to sell their work while getting feedback from attendees.
A national historic landmark built in 1905, Fenway Studios is an artist cooperative quietly tucked within the bustling Fenway Cultural District. The building was designed specifically to be studio space for artists, and its unique layout allows for the artists to both live and create in the space. Studios have kitchens and bedrooms, which exist alongside the artists’ easels and paintbrushes.
Because the building was created by and for artists, it has many features which help promote creative activity and make for a unique experience during the Open Studios event. The tall, north-facing windows of the building were designed specifically to give artists the best light possible. Artist Berio Gizzi explained that “nothing much” has changed about Open Studios since he moved there in 1994.
“We still have the beautiful light and that’s what I need,” Gizzi said.
This year, 22 artists participated in the event, opening their doors to the public and, therefore, to feedback on their work. Although three of the artists Gizzi, Ernest Andrades, and Denise possess unique styles, they all expressed similar reasoning for participating in Open Studios. For each artist, exposure is important—not only for selling art, but for creating it.
For Andrades, an artist specializing in modern-style painting, a lack of viewer feedback can be one of the pitfalls of a contemporary artist
“Doing contemporary painting, you’re going where you’ve never been before, and you’re producing something that’s new,” Andrades said. “It’s nice to have somebody come by and get a fresh eye, give you some feedback.”
Lindquist expressed a similar opinion on the significance of public feedback. Though she typically creates murals and fine-art painting, she is currently experimenting with a new style. Alongside her usual portraiture and landscape pieces, she displayed a largely plain blue canvas with a note beside it which stated “in progress.” By obtaining feedback from the people who visit her studio, she felt more comfortable moving forward with her new work.
“It makes me want to finish it,” she said. “It gives me more direction.”
By opening up their studios, artists can gain a sense of security and validation for their work if they are moving in a completely different direction. Current art students can also come to obtain exposure to art and give their own feedback, allowing collaboration between experienced artists and those just getting started.
Lindquist, who attended the now defunct Vesper George School of Contemporary Art, also commented how young artists face a different world than she did when she was starting out. Art has since been revolutionized and the creation process hastened in the age of computers.
To Lynda McNally, co-chair of Open Studios and founding president of Friends of Fenway Studios, the rise of technology has also affected the planning of events such as Open Studios. McNally explained that with the power of social media organizers for these events are “able to have a huge outreach.” Before Facebook and Twitter, spreading word of the event was “much more of an effort.”
As co-chair of the event, McNally reaches out to the general public and coordinates the spending for advertisements. This year, for the first time, the event was broadcast on the WGBH Boston Public Radio show, which helped inform the nearby community.
The surrounding community of the Fenway Cultural District, composed of eleven different institutions, allows for great collaboration between different types of creative individuals. The studio hosted Boston Conservatory harpist Amy Ahn this year, who greeted Open Studios attendees with music in the lobby.
“As a member of the Fenway Cultural District, we all want to help our fellow institutions promote their specialties,” McNally said. “We help each other, collaborating different mediums.”
Looking to the future, McNally hopes for further collaboration with other creative institutions, including a possible dance show. With the students of Berklee College of Music at their disposal, as well as other member institutions such as the Boston Conservatory, the Fenway Open Studios remains confident about future collaborations.
The studio not only works with artistic organizations, but also expands to community service. The 2017 Open Studios marks the ninth year of its annual food drive to benefit the greater Boston food bank—an event conducted during Open Studios.
“We are just so happy to be able to help,” McNally said. “All of the artists are committed to helping the greater Boston area.”
Open Studios shows its true purpose of engaging the surrounding community with its focus on collaboration in work involving both service and artistic organizations. The artists participate because the community involvement and response is important for the development of their art.
“Painting doesn’t have any meaning at all unless somebody wants to read something into it,” Gizzi said. “That’s [the viewer’s] prerogative.”
Featured Image by Catherine Cremens / The Heights