1. Perspectives: Alex Nichols
Perspectives in Present Tense by Alex Nichols
This is an artist’s take. An artist interviewing artists. The questions I want to ask. I love process. It is a personal obsession of mine and gives me great joy. I love to know the questions people ask themselves. How they make work. What drives them. What they look at and what they see.
I talk with different artists, writers, and people who inspire me about their personal processes in these interviews. As I enter 2022, I realize how critical these different perspectives on the world are to me. Sitting down with someone and hearing their process and thoughts is healing. I get to step outside of my internal psychological landscape and enter someone else’s inner world. It is like traveling to an unknown landscape or city.
My interest in perspectives has been lifelong. I was born a twin and though we came from the same womb, lived in the same bedroom, and experienced everything side by side, our perceptions of the world were utterly different. That was both confounding and curious to me.
I discovered my passion for transcribing an artists’ process through a series of unexpected evictions in 2015. Now in 2022, I miss sharing the things I hear and see among my fellow artists, writers, and thinkers. Why? Behind every process is an obsession and their obsessions are fantastic.
How the journey began:
To give you a short history. I first started this Blog in 2015 during mass artist evictions in San Francisco. Warehouses and industrial buildings all over the city were converted into offices for tech workers. The artist and many other communities were in disarray and trying to regain territory. The building I was in housed seventy artists, a children’s homeless center, Thrift Town, and The fabric store, among other things. I was part of Studio 17, which was on the fourth floor of 17th and Mission street. Sadly we did lose our spaces. That winter of 2015 recognizing the loss I founded an artist collective called Think Make Tank to rebuild a community for artists. I also started a full-time artist collaboration with Mushi Wooseong James called ALEXANDMUSHI.
Looking back through history I want to share that first entry as we fought to save our spaces and workplaces. Although we did eventually lose the fight all the artists who I then interviewed are all still deep in their processes, finding new paths to make what they make, so please enjoy their worlds:
MISSION DISTRICT 2015:
When we talk about the Mission changing—what does this really mean? When a group of people are moved out of a neighborhood what does it mean? It means nothing if we don’t understand the details of what is being lost.
There are many communities that make up the Mission—the goal of this blog is to give an intimate picture of one specific community—a taste of what is lost—when we say— “the artists have left the Mission!”
Studio 17 is an artist community that inhabits the fourth floor of 2111 Mission street—a beautiful old brick building on the corner of Mission & 17th street above Thrift Town and The Fabric Store—across from the One Dollar Store.
At the end of June the lease for the artists in STUDIO 17 is up—and we will no longer be part of the Mission. In the next two months—through careful observation—I want to explain what that loss will mean to the artists themselves and the community and to San Francisco as a city.
Let’s start with why a studio is such an important space for an artist:
When I select an artist space—I have specific hopes—high ceilings and either a south-facing or west-facing window—the window to be large to allow enormous amounts of light in—most of the photography I do depends on natural light—but the light is not the only criteria.
Material—artists work with material—are sensitive to the details of what specific materials offer—oil paint is pigment mixed with oil—acrylic paint is pigment mixed with plastic—a brick wall—a wooden ceiling or a cement ceiling are qualities of texture—light is a quality—and the artist does not merely place those qualities in their work—they surround themselves with texture—it is an integral part of the work and the thinking—
a neighborhood is an entire fabric—from the pigeons on ledges—to the sound of the bus below—artists spend hours looking at material—hours alone contemplating how a specific material will manifest an idea—
that time of contemplation is isolated—it is in the smallest details of interaction that can push an idea—to walk out of the studio door—bump into someone in the hallway—to borrow a saw—a wire cutter—to have someone who knows how to plane a piece of wood—an artist community is a network of skills and material—every artist will have specific reasons for why his or her space looks the way it does—
I will be going into these spaces to show what that texture is for each individual—and how they put their space together—how they work and how the space is their work.
2. Featured Artists:
STUDIO 17 in the news:
Tech Company to Replace 70 Artists in Mission – Broke-Ass Stuart, 7/30/2015
Studio 17 Artists Facing Loss of Their Work Space – Spencer Whitney, SF Chronicle, 5/11/2015
Without New Lease, More than 70 Mission District Artists Face Displacement – Sarah Hotchkiss, KQED Arts, 4/17/15
70 Artists Face Displacement in the Mission – Alex Mak, Broke Ass Stuart’s Blog, 4/16/15
4. Articles and Information
Links below are press and information links related to the loss of space for artists in San Francisco.
Up-Rooted: Artists Respond to San Francisco’s Black Exodus – Abdi Singh, KQED Arts, 4/2/2015
Mid-Market Development Loses Highly Touted Arts Center Plan – J.K. Dineen, SF Chronicle, 2/25/2015
Priced Out San Francisco’s Changing Values and Artist Exodus – Christian Frock, KQED Arts, 4/3/2014
A Neighborhood Thing: The Mission’s Art Scene in the 90’s – Kristian Farr, KQED Arts, 5/3/2015
SF Supes Mostly Awol from Arts Town Hall – Christian Frock, KQED Arts, 10/21/2014
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project – project by artist Erin McEloy
The Gentrification of Our Livelihoods – project by artist Megan Wilson
At the end of June—a community of over 70 artists—at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District—must leave STUDIO 17 to make way for high-cost working space. This blog will catalog the end of this community above Thrift Town (on Mission & 17th Street) and what it means. To understand what is being lost—I have spent the last two months carefully observing how artists work in their space—to give an intimate look at the inside of this community. I will continue to follow these artists as they hunt for new spaces and communities.
Update: Today, August 6 is a hearing at City Hall about the re-zoning of the Redlick Building. The planning commission is now calling this a “change of use” proposal and if this passes, it will be a blueprint for future developers to displace communities.
Click here to read more about this hearing
More about Alex Nichols: alexhnichols.com
Published on March 1, 2015