Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Art that is Life

Living in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles area of California provided me with invaluable access to a design aesthetic commonly referred to as the Arts and Crafts Movement. The title of this blog in fact pays homage to the subtitle of architect Will Price’s monthly magazine “The Artsman” (1903-1907). Price believed houses would be modern if they fit the life one lived, and that a home could have everything it needed without costly materials and exaggerated details. Reformer and designer William Morris is credited with the primary tenet of the Movement: “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The revival of this Movement at the end of the Twentieth century has abated. However, in this period of economic destabilization, the spirit of its ideals, if not the actual visual appearance, remains relevant. In a recent Boston Globe article, South End designer Meichi Peng is highlighted for her uncanny knack for what is both “livable and stylish” in our current times. Notably, she works to create environments that are modern but not sterile. Key to this effect is the use of a few items in the design that are truly one of a kind art or craft.

This effect is something that almost anyone can achieve, if they rethink the use of generically available home d├ęcor. For someone wanting to make their living space uniquely theirs, the most limited budget would be better served with one striking element of original art over a plethora of inexpensive reproduction prints or sculpture. You don’t have to travel far afield like Peng to achieve a personal style – in the Boston Area we have an embarrassment of riches with countless open studios events that can provide a ground floor for entering into the art arena. Armed with a map, and good walking shoes, all you need to do your research and hunt is both time to spend and a willingness to explore. Shortly, the Fort Point Open Studios will be here (May 7-9), followed by the SoWa Art Walk on May 15 and 16. In the fall, you will see the greater majority of the studio events open, after hard working artists and designers have spent the summer preparing to show their work. If you live too far outside the Boston area for these open studios, many urban and suburban regions hold similar events at some point in the year. They are different than fairs or art festivals – open studios are designed for the viewer to see the working environment of the artist and directly contact the maker of the object.

You don’t have to wait for the big open studio events. On (mostly) first Fridays of the month, SoWa hosts First Fridays revolving around the area of the 450 and 460 Harrison Avenue buildings in Boston. Part of this includes open artist studios, and part of this is the galleries in the zone. Another smart option is to watch for the art school sales that happen at various times during the year. The SMFA holds a large scholarship fundraiser Inside/Out in November each year, and the students usually have an end of year outdoor fair in May. MassArt likewise holds auctions and sales. With a little ingenuity, willingness to put in time, and a modest budget, unique art to make a personal statement in your home or office is very attainable.

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