On September 24 and 25, the United South End Artists (USEA), spearheaded by co-chairs Hope M. Ricciardi and Laz Montano, will host its 30th Annual Open Studio Weekend, inviting visitors to see USEA members’ workspaces in what is billed as “Boston’s biggest public open studios” with over 10,000 people expected to take advantage of the opportunity to see and buy work directly from the artist. In this interview with Artscope’s Adam Baratz, Ricciardi, a Boston artist whose mixed media artworks and paintings have been featured at Lesley University, Cambridge College, The Massachusetts State House, Galatea Fine Art, The Armenian Library and Museum of America and the Whistler House Museum of Art, gives us an inside look into USEA’s Open Studios, Boston’s South End as an artist community, art buying and the impact of technology in art.
HOW HAS THE ANNUAL USEA OPEN STUDIOS GROWN SINCE ITS INCEPTION?
We are, along with Fort Point, the oldest open studios in Boston. I didn’t have a studio here 30 years ago; I’ve been here for seven years. It’s my under-standing that about 10 years ago, open studios were very well attended. It was promoted by Mayor [Tom] Menino, so it was a huge deal — and people were selling a lot of work. The past decade has seen a decline in that. Now we’re building it back up again.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE FIRST-TIME ART BUYERS?
Do a little homework ahead of time. You can go on our website and research the artists by medium and by imagery. Because we have over 200 members, you won’t be able to see all of us in a day or even a weekend.
HOW HAS THE TECHNOLOGY AGE AFFECTED YOUR WORK?
Technology affected everything for artists. For one thing, it’s a medium. There is a legitimization of things that we didn’t used to think of as art. Photog-raphy for instance — 30 years ago it wasn’t hanging next to what was called fine art or paintings or sculptures. Now it is. It’s in the same realm; it’s considered just as much an art form. So that has been exacerbated by technology. Now you have people using Photoshop as a medium, so that’s a whole new thing. I use it to assist me in working. Some people are literally doing Photoshop collages of imagery and printing them out, and that’s the work.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?
I’m a little old-fashioned — it’s gotten a little extreme for my tastes. I’ve found myself in exhibitions where it looks like a poster of a Photoshopped image.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE EVOLUTION OF USEA IN THE NEXT FIVE TO TEN YEARS?
As much as I hate to admit it, we need to get on the technology bandwagon. I’m working with people to look at how we can use a cell phone app to promote the USEA. We’re working with a devel-oper to revamp the website and with local magazines like Artscope to do an ad campaign.
The South End is the arts district in Boston. It has the highest concentration of artists anywhere in the state — and we need people to know that. There’s a whole living and breathing community of artists right here. I’m working with City Hall to make the South End a designated arts area. We work a lot with Boston Creates. Our mayor, Marty Walsh, hired Julie Burros from Chicago [to serve as the city’s chief of arts and culture]. She is stirring things up, and we’re hoping for more city support. When the Duck Boats do their little tour rides, they should be driving through the South End and saying, “This is where you’re going to find all the artists.”