By Jordan Frias
Harrison Avenue artists have been opening up their studios to the public for a decade now and it is all thanks to Stephen Silver, founder of the South of Washington (SoWa) Artists Guild.
He and co-founder Debby Krim are the backbone of the organization that is looking to draw more locals and suburbanites into the area. With the help of neighboring retailers and gallery owners, and events like First Fridays and the Guild’s annual Salon Sunday, scheduled for March 20, they’re hoping that goal can be accomplished.
“The demographic we want are the people who can afford to buy our art,” Silver said. “We want to appeal to residents in areas like the ones in the South End, who have no idea about this [studio building]. They are the ones that are financially and upwardly mobile.”
The Guild, a volunteer board supporting the 70-plus artists working out of 450 Harrison Ave., has had success in getting the word out to hotels, concierge groups and students about their existence. An ad for the group and a description of First Fridays, open studios hours held on the first Friday of every month, have made their way into “where guide book,” the hardbound guide to Boston located in every hotel.
“We try to get tourists over here, but the biggest market is local residents…the empty nesters who move into the city and high-priced real estate renters and buyers needing art,” Silver said.
First Fridays tends to draw in somewhere between 500 to 1,000 people, according to Silver, many who eventually buy a piece of artwork after multiple visits.
Beyond First Friday and Salon Sunday though, traffic into the studio building tends to wane, especially during weekdays. Those traveling through the SoWa district on weekdays and during open market season tend to venture into the retail stores and galleries, ignoring the studio building and its dim-lit lobby, according to Silver.
“Our challenge is to get people into our building. The entrance isn’t that obvious, it’s kind of dark,” he said.
The next step is to collaborate with the surrounding gallery, arts-related, clothing and home-décor storefront owners who, too, are looking to appeal to a wealthier demographic year round.
“We’re in the process of forming a group with the retailers in getting more people into the area to make the SoWa arts district ‘the’ place to go for art,” Silver said. “So the trick is for us to get the message out to the right prospect.”