By Kit-Bacon Gressitt
San Diego has a thriving and eclectic arts community, but the economics of art as business can be challenging for people attempting to earn a living from their creations. Commissions on gallery sales, typically 50 percent for paintings, are pushing some artists out the door and into what’s known as “pop-up” art shows. These are short-term exhibits, commonly organized by the artists and held in odd and interesting urban environments. Pop-up shows are mounted in everything from bookshops to abandoned storefronts to empty industrial spaces and, now, in San Diego’s hidden gardens.
On the Edge Art Collective is presenting “Dirty Brushes,” its first pop-up garden art show and sale, on Oct. 23, from noon to 4 p.m. The show will be at 6378 Lake Athabaska Place, in the San Carlos neighborhood of San Diego.
On the Edge Art Collective, a group of 15 artists, has been meeting monthly for a little less than a year. They feed each other, talk family and art, share opportunities, and create art together. While most of the members are painters in various genres, they also work in quilting, mixed media, and sculpture. The collective is intentionally both supportive and productive.
But the members wanted to try something different, to find new audiences for their work, and they hope exhibiting in natural environments will produce the result they’re after: sales.
Collective member Bebe Brookman is hosting the first of what the group hopes will be a series of pop-up garden art shows in her San Carlos home and garden.
“We’re getting tired of galleries taking 50 percent of the price of a painting,” Brookman said. “The idea of having a show in a garden, in a home, seems much more in line with our art, because I see our art in people’s homes, not in galleries. So people looking for art for their homes will see it in a similar environment.”
Brookman recently completed a transformation of her garden from ornamentals to organic fruit and vegetables, and she’s eager to use it as a backdrop for the show.
“For me it’s blending my two passions, art and an organic lifestyle,” Brookman explained. “We’re anticipating people will meander through the gardens and the house, looking at the artists’ work. I like the concept of the show. I think it’s a great idea—I hope it works!”
Brookman and her colleagues are negotiating the use of additional gardens, which will offer arts consumers—and the curious—opportunities to visit yards not normally accessible to the public.
“The goal is to sell, of course,” said Midge Hyde, another collective member and the instigator of the group’s adoption of pop-up shows. “We’re all really compatible, and we thought [pop-up shows] would be a fun thing to do. But it’s also the exposure. You never know if you’re going to sell something. And we don’t consider ourselves really good marketers, that’s always a dreaded task. So, the more people the merrier—people enjoying themselves, the gardens and the art. Of course, we’d love to find collectors, people interested in office art or for their homes, a variety of people interested in art.”
While pop-up art shows are more common in New York, they are not new to San Diego.
“It’s a popular thing to do now,” Hyde said, “to have smaller private shows, rather than to rely on galleries, because galleries can end up being not so inclusive. We don’t know how the show will go, but we’re experimenting!”
For more information, contact Midge Hyde at 619-466-3711.
—Kit-Bacon Gressitt writes commentary and essays on her blog, Excuse Me, I’m Writing, and has been published by Missing Slate, Ms. Magazine blog and Trivia: Voices of Feminism, among others. She formerly wrote for the North County Times. She also hosts Fallbrook Library’s monthly Writers Read authors series and open mic, and can be reached at email@example.com.