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A Conversation with Elliot Lessing of BUILD

Most people know Elliot. You know someone who knows Elliot if you don't know Elliot yourself. Chances are good you have been invited to a performance, art opening, or some kind of event at Build, the intimate gallery space at 483 Guerrero, between 16th and 17th Streets. Sometime in the year 2000, after graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute with a B.F.A. in interdisciplinary studies, Elliot Lessing took over the storefront art space. Previous to assuming a role as Executive Director of Build, Lessing ran Art Hut, a space for site-specific artist installations based in the living room of his home in the upper Haight. In the last installation at Art Hut, Pool, artist Lin Liu "...filled my living room floor with about 2 inches of water," Lessing describes. "It was beautiful." Lessing believes in being surrounded by art, even if an artwork literally floods his personal space.

When asked about some of the projects that exemplify Build, Lessing mentioned Milk and Cookies, an installation this fall by CCA graduate student Megan McCready. In the gallery were numerous jars of hand-baked cookies, replenished daily by McCready. A refrigerator in the gallery's corner was stocked with milk (and soymilk), and gallery visitors were encouraged to take a break and enjoy. "What I thought was noteworthy about it was that she's an artist who uses generosity as a material. I thought that was in keeping a lot with my interest in the arts being a life-giving and life-enabling field. Much like parenting and teaching. . .," comments Lessing. (If the idea of experiencing this piece intrigues you, check out Tom Marioni's The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Greatest Form of Art, currently enacted in the galleries of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Thursday afternoons through April 4).

Another piece recently on display at Build was Mybrary, in which for three weeks over the summer, the gallery became a lending library with books belonging to "members of the public and local arts community." While the books were in circulation, a number of special events "reflect(ing) Mybrary's deep interest in Access, Education, Esoterica, and Originality" took place, including Reading Cities Between the Lines, Bathing in Sound, and Sidewalk Astronomy, for example.

Build is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, although to date it has not yet received any grants. Although artists have the option of offering work they show in the gallery for sale, Lessing explains that the commodification of art is not really what he's getting at. "I'm much more interested in providing a nuanced, immersive and complete art experience," Lessing offers. "Art has improved me," Lessing adds. "It has improved my interior life as well as my external life."

Build is available for multi-purpose rental from $10 - $15 hourly, or a flat fee of $150 on Friday and Saturday nights.

On Friday, January 30, Build celebrates its 10th anniversary with Rustic, a one evening event from 8:00PM - Midnight featuring artist-made mooseheads, a drawing of the Carter Family by Christine Sheilds, music by Howdy and artwork from the collections of Alice Shaw and Alicia McCarthy.

hours: Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM and by appt.
phone: 415-863-3041
website: www.buildsf.org.
address: 483 Guerrero (between 16th & 17th Streets)