Artists realize the benefits of an open studio

Artists realize the benefits of an open studio

One of the most fascinating things to me about a piece of art is understanding the process in which it was created, as well as knowing a bit about the creator themselves. Strolling down Centre Street, as you pass the local coffee shop, you may notice a funky staircase leading up to the second floor of a beautiful historic building. This is the home of the Blue Door Artists.This collaborative effort of eight artists has generated a new interest in contemporary art here on Amelia Island, as well as brought a breath of fresh air to downtown Fernandina. By allowing tourists and locals alike to come into their studios and watch them work, they not only give themselves more exposure and a platform in which to discuss their art, but also share a unique creative experience with each visitor.
Before July 2005 the Blue Door Artists were just a handful of people working in studios independently. The door leading up to their sanctuary was “a black hole,” and their studios were rarely visited. Dealing with overhead costs, a struggling economy and lack of gallery sales, a meeting was called to discuss what they could do as a community to get more people into their studios. Thus the Blue Door Artists were born.
After painting the door blue and working together in turning their stairway into a work of art, they opened their studios as a small community of artists working together under one banner. They represent a variety of mediums and forms, but working as a community they feed off of each other’s creativity. John D’Agnese, of the D’Agnese Studio and Gallery, says he “finds it not only rewarding, but stimulating. The spirit of cooperation is always apparent.” Outside of the obvious benefits of having other artists near by to provide critique and inspiration, these artists are creating for themselves exposure, which is vital to the success of any artist. Weaver and textile artist, Lynette Holmes, says that the new approach “creates a focal point for art and a hub of energy more powerful than one person can create on her or his own.”

Like most artists here on the island, the Blue Door Artists started out with studios at home. Casey Matthews, a painter that has had a studio at 205 1/2 Centre St. for the past 4 years, explained to me what made her move her studio to a public setting. She said, “Between two cats and two dogs, the phone, Internet, housework, TV, the beckoning beach, I quickly found that my home environment was too distracting to work in.” Being a fine artist takes an immense amount of self-discipline, and time. It is as serious of a career as any other. By having a studio space separate from home life, an artist has the ability to devote themselves entirely to their work. This allows them a more professional setting to work in, as well as gives their work regular public exposure that they would not receive otherwise. Christina Long, painter, has definitely benefited from the experience, “It’s been wonderful meeting so many people from around the country who visit Amelia Island. Sometimes a small compliment on my work is just as rewarding as making a sale.” But since the artists have reinvented themselves as the Blue Door Artists, they have all seen a remarkable increase in sales.

Artists usually have to go through a gallery in order to sell their work, in doing so they surrender up to 60 percent of the sale to the gallery as a commission fee. By having an open studio, artists can independently sell their work and see a full return on the sale. Casey Matthews said that during the first summer after the Blue Door makeover she made more in sales than she had in the previous three years of having a studio downtown. “I was shocked.”

I asked how feasible it is for more artists to start creating public studio spaces downtown. Painter, Theresa Daily, says “there are definitely ups and downs to this.” Like all business downtown that rely on the tourist seasons to boost sales, there are months where things are slow. With rising property taxes and insurance costs, rent is becoming increasingly expensive and all small businesses are struggling here in Nassau County. A single artist would have a difficult time with overhead costs without a supplemental income, but a group of artists can work together to make it happen!

The Blue Door Artists are a wonderful example of how working as a community creates a strong platform for the individual artists to grow. They celebrated their one-year anniversary on Wednesday and are hosting a First Friday Art Walk with a creative scavenger hunt. Go check it out and let them know how much our community appreciates their pioneering attitude towards art in Fernandina!



Nan Kavanaugh is director of Wall Art Gallery, 122 S. Eighth St., Fernandina Beach. This column will appear regularly.







Story created Oct 06, 200609:38:45 PDT.


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Filed under Exciting News!!!, Studio Related

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