The story of Artspace is a simple one. On one level, it is about the desire and passion of one person to add to the dialogue of contemporary culture. On another, it is how this idea was embraced by so many talented artists, writers, students and a public to change a place in time. The idea became a reality in 1986 in San Francisco’s South of Market area in a remodeled typewriter repair shop.
During the 25 years that have followed, Artspace has presented work in every medium, given grants in support of painting, sculpture, video post production, and critical writing. We have published a magazine, more than 10 books, and helped filmmakers with their projects. When necessary, we have provided travel grants to artists for everything from photographing a music festival in Cartagena to a special grant for reuniting lovers.
We have paid health care when needed, initiated an education IRA program for artists’ kids and each Christmas operated The Toy Factory, a fund raiser, where artists got together and made sculptures out of broken toys to benefit the Toys for Tots campaign. We transformed a restaurant on the corner of Ninth and Folsom and named it Limbo . It was a place where artists ate and drank and on every Wednesday night even cooked the specials. We had an advisory board that never met. We were never members of anything professional, and for our own good reasons. Our fall from grace with the NEA wasn’t by design on our part but by the nature of the original idea. We also had serious fun.
Whether you know what an education IRA is or not really doesn’t matter. I want people to get the point that Artspace is a full service organization that attends to all the needs of artists as they come up. It is important for me to say that. We were a reaction to the art organizations that had stringent guidelines and never wavered from them when situations presented themselves that required help, if not in a formal sense, in a human sense. For this I take full responsibility but none of the credit.That belongs to so many other people who have worked so hard to make it happen.
There are a great many people to whom I owe a great debt for their tireless work on behalf of Artspace . Anyone who is involved in this kind of space knows that the work does not take place between 9 and 5 and there is no job description for what we have to do to make it work each day. Maureen Keefe is the perfect example. Not only did she do all of the administrative work to make things actually happen but was actively involved in many exhibitions, from locating thousands of magazines and a VW bug (her own) for David Mach’s installation, to signing up as a cowgirl extra in Beyond and Back, a video movie. Maureen has always been a willing and enthusiastic participant, and I can’t thank her enough.
John McCarron, our first curator, had such a profound influence that it is hard to believe that he was only with us for two years. His memory lives on in all the artists and friends to whom he gave so much. Kristin Johnson has made the most of every experience, working with artists and writers to design our books and magazine at a level so high she has set new standards and accomplished an unsurpassed body of work. To Kristin I will always be grateful.
To Richard Manoogian who always supported my work and to my son Jim who ran Limbo brilliantly and put up with all of our shenanigans, thank you so much.
I want to give special thanks to Tony Labat, who helped shape the video and performance program through his passion as an artist and teacher and his generosity to me as a friend is something that I will always cherish.There are many others to thank. Bob Dix, Maura Nolan, Bruce Kremer, whose friendship and moral support carried me through many a crisis and to my friend Ed Leffingwell whose skill as a writer and editor saved me many an embarrassment. To Tony Korner, Amy Homes, Kathy Brew, Jim Lewis , Maria Theresa Caparotta, Irene Pijoan, Carlo McCormick and Ingrid Sischy, thank you for your kindness. And thanks to the co-editor of The Snitch, you know who you are. Last but not least I owe so much to my daughter Bridget and to my angel Michael whose love and a cup of tea got me through it all.
Artspace is now in New York City with all the promise that a new space and new ideas bring. We also bring with us all of those things that worked in San Francisco and all of the good intentions on which Artspace was founded. We have added DV editing into our program and will expand our book publishing to go beyond the collaboration series represented in this book.
And then we’ll sit back and see where we can help, what we can do for artists and what kind of trouble we can get into here..