I of course became immediately infatuated with a series of tiny watercolors, but could not find the artist anywhere. It seems that while there is a list of artists who are supposed to attend, as well as table placard labeling their respective spaces, it is not uncommon for artists to come and spontaneously set up in side booths along the venue, which can make it a serious challenge to find the creator of your desired piece. But eventually I did end up walking away with these two by Lacey Bryant, for $5 each:
And this is another thing I love about this city: that there are so many places that strive to really make art accessible. As an art history major, one of the things I found discouraging about the art world and especially galleries was the stuffiness and elitist attitude you often find there. Traditionally there is a preconception that collecting is for the wealthy, that fine art is for affluent eyes only, and indeed if I walked into many of the galleries around Union Square, a 20-something in jeans and leather jacket, I would not be likely to get much attention from the staff. After all, they are in the business of selling art, and I suppose I do not look very likely to purchase a $10,000 piece.
But San Francisco is a young, generally egalitarian-minded city, and in this vain there have sprung up over the years a wealth of galleries and non-profits and events that help bring art to a new audience: to the younger generation, to students and to the generally pocket-book challenged. At Hang Art in downtown San Fransico you can rent artwork for 3 month periods, on a sliding scale depending on the piece's purchase price. Around the corner, ArtworkSF offers a rent-to-own program. At the the nonprofit Luggage Store in the mission, you can see exhibits and performing art events that work "to amplify the voices of the region’s diverse artists and residents, to promote inclusion and respect, to reduce inter-group tensions and to work towards dispelling the stereotypes and fears that continue to separate us." In the lower haight you can visually peruse paintings on the walls of Edo Salon while you get your hair cut. An open studio event I attended a few weeks ago at a friend's warehouse studio boasted several floors of some wonderful and widely diverse artwork. And pretty much everywhere you look there are beautiful, colorful murals (and other street art) that everyone can enjoy, that by their very nature are created for and belong to the public.
So I guess I am now $10 poorer and a officially a "collector". While I was interning at one of the 49 Geary galleries, an art consultant there would frequently tell me, "you know, it's never too early to start your collection, you should start now!" I was always greatly amused by this and secretly wondered if he was hoping to sell me my first piece(probably). I don't think it really registered to him that he was speaking to a college student living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, working for free at a gallery whose least expensive pieces probably run well into the upper hundreds, if not thousands. The truth is I may never be able to afford one of the Ray Turner landscapes I lust after, or much of the other art I would love to own.
So I must say thank goodness for Sketch Tuesdays, where you can buy an original piece of art directly from the artist (with no commission taken out for an agent or gallery) for less than the price of a meal out, and if you get there soon enough perhaps even witness its creation, which is not something many collectors of fancy-schmacy high-priced art can say. Sure, they may have been made in 20 minutes and they may be on little scraps of sketchbook paper or wood (I even saw a drawing on a postage sticker) instead of good quality canvas, but they are unique works of art that you can fall in love with and take home and enjoy for years to come. And the best part is they didn't cost you an entire month's pay.
How much do I love that I live in a place where I can experience a book fair, a concert and glorious sunshiny afternoon in a beautiful park all in the same day, all for free; a place where my middle-aged neighbors throw a hoppin' party on a Sunday night and where I can buy a painting for $5 while drinking on Tuesday? Lots.