BOSTON, MA – East Boston Open Studios takes places this Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19. artscope managing editor Brian Goslow cornered June Krinsky-Rudder co-founder of the East Boston Artists Group Open Studios to discuss event preparations, what makes the open studio experience special and what they offer to the arts community.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN OVERSEEING YOUR OPEN STUDIOS WEEKEND?
This is my third year doing it primarily myself, but I oversaw it with one other person in 2005, and as a founding member of East Boston Artists Group, I have been one of the organizers since our first Open Studios in 2001. Elsa Campbell and Jesse Kahn handled much of the overall organizing in the early years. I didn’t organize in 2008 or 2009, when it was completely run by Todd Antonellis, who co-organized with me in 2005, and Liz Nofziger.) We skipped 2006 due to construction, and 2010 because no one took on the organizing.
WHAT – OR WHOM – BROUGHT YOU ABOARD?
I co-founded the East Boston Artists Group in August 2000, along with Anna Salmeron and Jesse Kahn. In 2011, Neil Wyatt, one of the participating artists, put out an email asking about interest in holding Open Studios. Somehow the meeting ended up in my studio. I’ve been organizing ever since. (*Most of the artists feel it’s important for the neighborhood that we hold Open Studios. Not all of the artists feel qualified to organize, or have time to do so. I make time because I feel it’s a vital event.)
WHAT DOES THE JOB ENTAIL?
The job entails many different things. The main thing is getting in touch with all known artists from East Boston. (Our definition is artists who live, work and/or create in the neighborhood.) It’s important to get as many of them ‘on board’ as possible — more artists = a better event for the visiting public, as it means more art to view. Some years (like this year) it involves applying for grant funding to cover expenses. (The East Boston Foundation has been a generous funder in all the years that we requested their assistance.) It involves making sure that the participating artists send their images and information to the person handling the website and to the person or people designing our print media. (This year, our web site is to be redone, by Liz Nofziger, our original web designer.) Planning Open Studios includes getting word out to the press and to the City of Boston. It involves budgeting – figuring out how much money will come in from artists’ participation fees and/or other sources, and determining the most important things that must be purchased with these funds. In the case of grants, it also involves arranging for a fiscal agent at East Boston Artists Group is not a not-for-profit organization. ZUMIX will be our fiscal agent — a role they have graciously undertaken in many past years. Bookkeeping is also important — tracking artists’ payments, and making sure bills are paid. It’s also important to make sure that we have signage at the locations where artists will be showing. Postcards and maps must be designed, printed and distributed. Studio/exhibit locations must be prepared for the public.
Though the coordinator/main organizer makes sure that all of this takes place, it is not work done alone. All of the artists involved, as well as many supporters of the arts who live in the neighborhood, take on different roles, primarily promoting the event and preparing their own spaces. ZUMIX not only acts as fiscal agent, but also opens their doors on Saturday each year. This year they are hosting a closing event, “Jazz at the Fire House.” HarborArts, Inc. Outdoor Sculpture Gallery at the Boston Harbor Shipyard, will be hosting a number of artists, and will provide maps of the sculptures on site. “Studios Without Walls”, a Brookline-based group that will have a featured exhibit this summer, will have at least one artist with work on site in time for Open Studios.
HOW MUCH TIME GOES INTO IT OVER THE YEAR AND WHEN DO YOU REALLY BEGIN TO RAMP UP PREPARATIONS AS THE EVENT APPROACHES?
A lot of time goes into it, and though it would probably be a much larger event if I had the ability to work on it year-round, I teach full-time, so I squeeze in about 8 months of work during the year. (More than I should, but less than it needs.) Neither I, nor anyone else is paid for coordinating. We try to pay the web designer each year, or whoever is updating (though none ever charge what the job is actually worth). When there is enough money, we also pay the person or people who design our cards and other print media.
WHAT MAKES YOUR OPEN STUDIO WEEKEND UNIQUE?
You can travel to HarborArts via the Water Taxi, for one thing. Ours is now held in the spring, as everything is beginning to bloom and the weather is usually nice enough to merit exploration of the neighborhood. We probably have some of the best restaurants in Boston, and the best water views of the city. We also get a lot of visitors who fly into Logan and then explore the area before moving on to their intended destinations.
WHAT MAKES OPEN STUDIO WEEKEND AN IMPORTANT EVENT FOR YOUR FACILITY AND THE PARTICIPATING ARTISTS?
Our Open Studios event provides us an opportunity to interact with the neighbors. It’s a real ‘family day’ — with not only multi-generational visitors, but many people arrive with their dogs in tow. The Atlantic Works Building, located at 80 Border Street, was once associated with ship-building, so it’s a unique spot in the neighborhood, and a lot of the ‘old-timers’ like to come in to see what’s going on as they “always wondered what was in there” while growing up. Some artists make sales of their work; it’s always nice to sell your work and to find new collectors. It’s always been more of a wonderful social event than anything else, and the variety and quality of the work in our neighborhood is always fabulous.
IN THE PAST, WHAT HAVE ATTENDEES SAID WAS AMONGST THEIR FAVORITE PARTS OF THE EVENT?
Sadly, I’ve always been running around checking to make sure that everyone was in their spaces, or that signage was up and visible, or taking care of other administrative tasks during the events, so I don’t necessarily know. I usually don’t even get to clean my space until the night before, or have work on exhibit. My goal is to change that this year.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT IT?
I like meeting neighbors and having friends stop by. I also like to see other people’s work when I can get out of my studio.
FROM AN ARTIST’S STANDPOINT, WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THE EVENT? HOW MUCH IS ABOUT INTRODUCING THEIR WORK TO NEW AUDIENCES AND HOW MUCH IS ABOUT MAKING SALES?
I think that for most of us, it’s about sharing our work and introducing it to new audiences. Obviously, sales are good, but most of us don’t make sales, and we don’t have that as our main motivation.
I’VE FOUND MYSELF OVERWHELMED WHEN I ATTEND OPEN STUDIO EVENTS. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR FIRST-TIMERS?
I would suggest looking at the website to see what kind of art you might want to see, and then determine where the artists are located. In East Boston we have 3 locations so it’s likely less intimidating. One can start at HarborArts (arriving by Water Taxi) and then hit ZUMIX before moving on to 80 Border Street or the other way around. Maverick Station, on the Blue Line, is in between ZUMIX and 80 Border. I would also look into the local restaurants and consider bringing a camera to capture some of the beautiful harbor views.
ANY SPECIAL PERFORMANCES OR ACTIVITIES SCHEDULED FOR THIS YEAR’S EVENT?
ZUMIX is hosting “Jazz at the Fire House” on Sunday, May 19th at pm.
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING ON THE MORNING PRIOR TO THE DOORS OPENING?
I will probably be delivering balloons and running to Costco to get food for my visitors.
AND WHEN THEY CLOSE?
This year I will clean as quickly as I can, and run over to ZUMIX for “Jazz at the Fire House”. Most years I also go get food and then go home and crash.
(East Boston Open Studios takes places on Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19. For more information, please visit http://www.eastbostonartistsgroup.org.)