How the journey began — The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols in her space at Studio 17
Alex Nichols in her space at Studio 17

1. The Artists’ Space

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. 

Stack of journals in Studio 17
Stack of journals

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 requirements—high ceilings and either a south facing or west facing window—the window needs to be large to allow enormous amounts of light in—most of the photography I do depends on natural light—but light is not the only criteria.

Window at Studio 17
Studio window

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:

Lucinda Buxton Martin

Rick D’Elia

Jeffrey Martin


Daniel Lichtenberg

Ellen Rosenthal

Lauren Marchetti

Adam Barry

Lexie Bouwsma

Denise Laws

Andy Vogt

Qinmin Liu

Truong Tran

Kate Nichols

3. Press

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:

Read more:

Feature on Alex Nichols and STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space

Published on March 1, 2015

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