On Apr. 25 and 26, throngs of art-hungry Bay Area residents will make a sojourn to Hunters Point Shipyard for the 26th anniversary of the Shipyard Artists’ Spring Open Studios.
With more than 300 members, Shipyard Artists is one of the most famous artist colonies in the state, but it’s only accessible to the public twice a year, in the spring and fall. During this year’s Spring Open Studios, more than 130 artists will have their practices on display, with work ranging from steel sculptures and oil paintings to photographs and jewelry.
“It’s the largest and most diverse group of artists and artwork you’ll probably ever find,” says Estelle Akamine, founder and project manager of the Spring Open Studios.
Long isolated from the city, the Shipyard became a popular destination in the 1980s for artists looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of a more populated San Francisco. But redevelopment is slowly bringing the city closer to the Shipyard: Lennar Corporation, which has a developer contract with the city, is in the midst of upgrading the Shipyard’s ancient infrastructure and installing 1,600 residential units.
Some artists will have to move to new studios in the Shipyard so Lennar can demolish and renovate older facilities. But Akamine said artists are more worried about what will happen to the peace and quiet of the Shipyard as it transforms into a residential area.
“It’s like the city’s coming to our front yard,” Akamine said. “We used to be so secluded that hardly anybody knew about us, but now we’re gong to be part of a San Francisco neighborhood.”
That said, Akamine isn’t worried about the Shipyard becoming a new Dogpatch. Having worked in the studios since 1988, Akamine is excited; the Shipyard could break out of its splendid isolation to become the hub of an artistic neighborhood, drawing younger artists and new audiences.
“We need that infusion, we need that diversity,” Akamine said. “We’re going to see a change of character, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Editor's note: The title of this article was changed to reflect the open studios two locations, at both Hunters Point Shipyard and Islais Creek Studios (1 Rankin Street, San Francisco).