Madison Open Art Studios

by Mayumi Otsuka

After four months of waiting in Tokyo to receive the entry visa to the US, I finally joined my husband who had been studying at UW. It was mid July, two weeks after my arrival in Madison that I learned about “Madison Open Art Studios”. It was around the time when I finally felt settled down and started to look for opportunities to share my art works with the people in Madison. To resume my painting work, I went to Art & Craftsman Supply on East Johnson St. to purchase some paints. It was there on the bulletin board that I happened to come across a flyer on this event.

“Madison Open Art Studios” was held on Oct. 4th and 5th and 89 local artists participated in this first grass-root event of this kind in Madison. The basic concept was simple: to start a low-budget art event that anybody can participate in and to build the citywide grass-root network of cooperation among the local artists. The first meeting on Sept. 2nd was crowded with many local artists, ranging from art students to relatively established artists, who were excited about this first innovative art event in this city. During the two-day period, each participant had one representative artwork displayed at Art Beat Gallery. Visitors were to go to the gallery first to see these representative artworks and then visit the artists’ homes or studios with the help of the map distributed at the gallery. More than 30 visitors came to my place in Eagle Heights University Community and it was more than I had expected. As most of the participants concentrated in east side Madison, I was concerned if anybody would bother to travel all the way to my place, which was one of very few open art studios in the west side. Some came to my place after seeing my work at Art Beat Gallery; others came after having visited other artist’s places and learned about my works.

What was exciting about this event is that I could meet a wide range of people in the community who somehow became interested in my artworks: local artists, university students, neighbors in my community, and other participants in this event. The event also gave me the challenge and the joy of exhibiting my paintings in a space that is not only limited but also a part of my daily life. Having always exhibited my works at galleries, I was initially at lost as to how to present my works in our clattered living room and bedroom. However, it turned out to be an excellent opportunity to explore the relationship between my works and the very space where my daily life takes place. It also gave visitors different ways of appreciating artworks than simply visiting galleries, because it allowed them to enter the space where the artworks were being or had been created and even the space where the artists led their daily lives.

“Madison Open Art Studios” demonstrated innovative ways of initiating a dialogue through creative work among the local artists and the people in the community. Though the first year trial left many issues to deal with for improvement, the seeds of future growth has been planted. The event will grow further year by year, playing a key role in helping extend the grass-root network of creative minds that Madison is proud of.