SFAQ Interview with ArtSpan’s Executive Director Heather Holt Villyard


Tell us a little history about ArtSpan for people who are unfamiliar?
SF Open Studios was founded in 1975 by a small group of enterprising artists.
Choosing to bypass the usual route of securing gallery representation, these artists were able to connect directly with the public and their admirers. Year by year, more artists opened their studios at the same time, drawing even more visitors and potential buyers, until audience numbers grew in the thousands. The event was volunteer- organized and produced until 1991 when ArtSpan was officially established as a non-profit organization dedicated to artists’ professional development and youth arts education. From 1995 through 2010, ArtSpan registered 4,975 artists. The number of artists participating each year has grown from 456 in 1995 to 812 in 2010; audience numbers have increased exponentially to 60,000 each October.


ArtSpan Staff.



What is Art Span trying to accomplish by organizing the SF Open Studios?

SF Open Studios remains ArtSpan’s largest program and has grown into the largest and best established of many such events in the country. Each weekend, participating artists in their designated portion of San Francisco welcome the public into their homes and workspaces to share their artwork and engage in dialogue. As an uncensored and non-juried event, any artist can register to participate to receive the benefits of ArtSpan’s city- wide promotion and the cumulative effects of neighboring studios’ foot traffic.


How long has the Open Studios been going on?
Our records indicate the event started in 1975 although I have heard that artists like Clyfford Still were opening their studios for public viewing as early as 1970. According to Thomas Albright’s Art in The San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980, David Maclay (1975 SECA Art Award winner) organized Open Studios as a public tour in the SOMA district of San Francisco. The poster that remains from this event shows a collection of diverse artists showcasing 2D, 3D, dance, performance and happenings in the spring of 1976. Two artists that participated in the inaugural year are still showing today, Phil Deal and Richard L. Perri.


What kind of other Art Span programming/events will we see during the course of October?
SF Open Studios kicks off with ArtLaunch at SOMArts on September 29th with a preview of the SF Open Studios Exhibition. We will also host a free public reception on Saturday, October 15th in conjunction with the SOMA SF Open Studios weekend. Also look out for Friday night opening parties in the Mission, SOMA and Hunters Point.


How can people participate in future Art Span open Studios?
Get on our mailing list at www.artspan.org. Artists can join for as little as $30 to take part in our year round activities and benefits. The Art Span Catalogue is an essential tool for the event. Please explain how to use this years catalogue. This years Guide can be picked up at local coffee shops, Blick Art Materials and the exhibition at SOMArts. The Guide is organized by weekend and includes maps and profiles. We will also have an online version by weekend to view at www.artspan.org.


Phil Deal
Richard L. Perri