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Artist Dana Hemenway works on an art piece inside her studio in the new 1240 Minnesota Street Studio space. Photo credit: Joe Rosato Jr.
Artist Dana Hemenway works on an art piece inside her studio in the new 1240 Minnesota Street Studio space. Photo credit: Joe Rosato Jr.
NBC Bay Area

New San Francisco Art Studio: the Savior of the City's Arts Scene

by Joe Rosato Jr.

Brion Nuda Rosch wandered down a plain, white hallway, devoid of any ornamentation, explaining how the former industrial warehouse has become a veritable savior of San Francisco’s arts scene.

He pointed out doors leading to artist studios where bursts of colorful art works stood in sharp contrast to the building’s more monotone arteries.

“It’s a building with 30 studios for 35 working artists,” Nuda Rosch, the building's program director said, “to pursue their careers in contemporary art.”

The building at 1240 Minnesota St. in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood is the companion piece to the Minnesota Street Project, a building with 10 galleries the public can visit opened earlier this year by entrepreneurs Deborah and Andy Rappaport, who are offering below-market rents in an effort to save the city’s struggling arts scene.

The public gallery sits just down the street from the studio spaces, which just began taking in its new artist tenants.

“They have made a commitment to many people,” Nuda Rosch said, “to change the face of what could happen here in San Francisco.”

The woeful tales of San Francisco’s artists have compounded in recent years as skyrocketing rents and loss of studio space have cast artists adrift — many seeking refuge in the East Bay. Artist Rachelle Reichert said she and her partner had begun considering a move out of the city following an eviction notice earlier this year.

“Just the conversations we were having,” Reichert said, “were basically moving to another city.”

Reichert was among more than 300 artists applying for 35 studio openings in the new 1240 project. Her moving plans changed after she was picked to take one of the studios.

“I mean, it’s kept us here in San Francisco,” Reichert said. “It totally changed our plans in a good way.”

Nuda Rosch said San Francisco artists have long lacked security as designated arts spaces are turned into other commercial uses or knocked down to make way for condominium projects. In contrast, he said the new studio is the first in the Bay Area dedicated solely for the arts with rents at or below market rate.

“This building has been committed for studio space,” Nuda Rosch said, “work space for artists for a long-term period, which is very rare in San Francisco.”

Mixed-media artist Dana Hemenway said the prospect of new studio space is generating excitement across an arts community that has had little to celebrate in recent times.

“Not only was it stagnating, it was going backwards,” Hemenway said. “And then all of a sudden that changed.”

The new building includes individual studios, a wood shop and a computer lab that will be stocked by Adobe. The space will host artists-in-residence and rotating art showcases. The blank walls, Nuda Rosch said, are the canvas for the imagination.

Still, he admits, the 35 artist slots won’t immediately put a huge dent in the city’s struggling arts scene. But he hopes others will use the Minnesota Street Project as a model for future artist-based developments within the city.

“This is one drop in the bucket,” Nuda Rosch said, “but at least it’s something positive.”