By Sherrod Blankner
When the news came on March 19th that all of California had to shelter-in-place and our gallery had close its doors immediately, we began to wonder if our little store would be a casualty of the pandemic. Our co-op had to pivot quickly from a brick-and-mortar gallery to an online ecommerce platform. (link to https://www.4thstreetfineartshop.com). Though we don’t yet know the future for our gallery, I wanted to write about the history of our group in this blog post, to give you, readers, an idea of the deep bonds that may help us survive.
I joined the studio in 2003, when it was operating as “4th Street Studio” and located at 4th and Virginia. At the time, I was thirty-three, recently married and new to the East Bay. Like many of the artists, I worked a day job and dreamed of the day when I could paint full time.
For ten years, the gallery was run by our fearless leader, Gera Hasse, who created a welcoming and creative atmosphere for all her artists. Because she handled all the stressful parts of the gallery, like making sales, paying rent and publicity, we artists just painted, lunched, and philosophized. Overflowing receptions and rockin’ Halloween parties symbolized the good times at the studio.
In 2011, we experienced a near-death experience, when we lost our lease at our old location. Many of us could not imagine our group being scattered to the winds, never to be together again. In small scouting parties, we began searching for a new location that could hold at least fifteen people. The still lingering slump from the 2008 financial crisis helped us, for rents were low at the time. After multiple false starts we settled on a new lease three blocks from our old location. We moved into 2000 4th Street in October, 2012.
In our new location, we operate as a co-op, with the work distributed across our eighteen members. Learning to run a gallery as a group proved challenging. We’ve all had moments when we wanted to storm out in a huff and say “I’m never talking to you again!” but somehow we have persevered. After eight years in the new location, our doors are still open and a core group of the original members remains. New members have enlivened our group and schooled us in the latest technology to make and sell art.
When COVID-19 hit, like many people, we thought it would last a month or two. Now we understand we may be facing a year of upheaval, with unexpected closures or little foot traffic. Still, when we met to decide whether we should give up, everyone voted no. The ties that bind us are long years of working together. We have given each other critiques, shared supplies, strategized on shows, consoled each other on failures and cheered (maybe a bit jealously) when some of our members scored shows in New York. We have never said the word “love” in our by-laws and mission statements but not giving up is a form of love. I am typical of many of our members—I got older, never really quit the day job or got famous, but I still smile with pleasure every time I pick up a paint brush. That’s why we still make art.
Come by, friends, because we are still open!
Streeters share studio news
Recommended Artist Resources
Frames - Cheap Joes
Matboard - REDImat
Paint - Blick Art, Cheap Joes
Plastic bags - Clearbags
Shipping supplies - Uline
Shoe Making - blog
Supplies - ASW Express
Postcards - PS Prints