Shotgun Review

What Defines the Bay Area Visual Arts Community?

By Shotgun Reviews February 25, 2010

Bay Area-based artist and curator Joseph del Pesco recently posed to AP Editor Patricia Maloney a series of questions about the philosophy and activities of Art Practical.  Her answers appear as a February 21 post on SFMOMA’s Open Space blog. Joseph asked how we envision the site contributing to the history of the Bay Area and she responded in part by creating a list of attributes that characterize artistic practices here.  That list appears below as an invitation to our readers to weigh in on the question of what defines the Bay Area visual arts community.

Patricia: "Already, I think someone can look at Art Practical’s content, and see some of the interconnectivity between spaces and people. And one can identify some of the characteristics that define the scene here. Many are obvious, but worth stating. They include:

- The artists living and working in the Bay Area see themselves as part of a community of artists, and will identify themselves as belonging to a community, although they would not include all other artists as part of their same community, or claim to share objectives or practices with all other artists.

- Artists tend to define their communities around places, particularly the local art schools and alternative exhibition spaces.

- Home-grown activities and spaces proliferate.

- Artists are heavily influenced by living in an urban environment.




- There are a significant number of international artists living in the San Francisco Bay Area, whose cultures of origins inform their practices as much if not more than their present locality.

- Artistic practice has a tendency to overlap with lived experience. In other words, distinction is not drawn between the goals of daily life and life as an artist.

- The Bay Area is an incubator for young artists.

- The primary institutions are academic ones, particularly the art schools.

- A great deal of currency is given to collective activities; collaboration is highly valued.

- In the absence of a sustaining market, artists create alternative modes of display and exchange, often by means of artists’ books and zines.

- Editioned prints and multiples have wide reception, but their production often flies under the radar.

- Artists embrace progressive stances around social and political issues, but many still use traditional media to articulate those stances.

- Ephemeral and social practices are encouraged, as are documenting and capturing traces of these practices.

- Material-based practices tend to dominate conceptual ones."

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