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Wrong Turns are Okay: SF Open Studios 2002

By Libby Kountzman

Our intentions were simple: spend the first Saturday of Open Studios witnessing all the local-born artwork as three hours permitted. My only stipulation was that my two art-seeking friends and I select studios spontaneously. No artist pre-screening, no studio background checks. Keeping in this theme, our first stop was an antique store situated a stone's throw from the California College of Arts and Crafts campus.

"Can you recommend any artists or studio spaces in the neighborhood?" I asked the kindly gentleman at the front desk, hoping to gather some local insight. We waited as the man removed his glasses and gave us a blank stare. After many awkward moments he announced, "There are no artists here. All the artists have moved away. The rents are too high." Hmm. Interesting. Sidestepping his commentary, I showed him the map on page 20 of the Open Studios Guide, which clearly indicated several studio spaces in the area. His response, "This map is three years old. There are no artists in Potrero Hill." And on that note, we defiantly kicked off our haphazard glimpse into a haphazard local gallery scene.

We spent the next three hours combing streets of Potrero Hill, asking people on the street for recommendations and visiting studio spaces that ranged in formality from boutique storefronts to converted garages. Our final stop for the day was Gila Lane's loft on the corner of Mariposa and Pennsylvania. Nearly every square inch of Lane's living space had been converted into a place to hang art: watercolor paintings, pen and ink drawings and photographs covered makeshift walls from floor to ceiling. In retrospect, Lane's enthusiasm for, both, exhibiting her artwork and welcoming the public into her home, embodied the energy of Open Studios. While a full staff of aproned immediate family and friends chopped carrots in the kitchen, Lane positioned herself near the front door to talk shop with visiting patrons.

My advice is to welcome wrong turns and trays of stale crackers. Open Studios doesn't represent four weekends of formal critique or consumerism. It's about recognizing the work your neighbor long-practicing and emerging artists are creating. It's about entering artist's intimate studio spaces and initiating conversation.

Yes, we walked up and down the same hill several times when I repeatedly misread the map, but, no, this did not prevent us from enjoying our day. I recommend keeping your expectations loose, asking as many questions as possible and keeping your eyes peeled for the pastel balloons and hand-painted signs that earmark studio spaces.

It's worth your while to check out Gila Lane's eclectic portfolio:
1001 Mariposa Street (@ Pennsylvania), #204

San Francisco Open Studios 2002 will continue through October 27th at locations throughout the city. Check SF Station's Open Studios page for more information, or visit their website at