South End Open Studios: The 30-Year Transformation

Inside the 450 Harrison Ave studios

Inside the 450 Harrison Ave studios

This year, the SoWa Arts & Design District celebrates South End Open Studios’ 30th anniversary. Before the migration of Boston galleries, before SoWa became the hub for arts and culture it is today, it all began with the 450 Harrison Ave artist studios.

We sat down with Debby Krim to discuss Open Studios, and the way it has transformed with the city over the years. Krim is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in Studio 223A in 450 Harrison for over a decade, and is represented by SoWa’s Lanoue Fine Art, as well as Jules Place. Her first visit to SoWa was during South End Open Studios.

How long have you been participating in Open Studios?

I got my first studio here more than a dozen years ago, after I came down here for Open Studios. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who share your desire to create. I never would have imagined when I first moved here that ten, twelve years later, it would be this spectacular center for art.

Tell us about your experience being part of the South End Open Studios community.

In the early years, South End Open Studios was a once a year mega event, and there wasn’t much competition. We were one of the only “Open Studios". We waited all year for the fall open studios. As time has gone on, and more places have opened, the SoWa Art & Design District has become a place you want to visit 7 days a week... especially on Sundays, when the galleries and studios are open during the SoWa Sunday Markets.

30 years is a real milestone. This place has come alive. I’ve watched it go from a pretty rundown area to what I would consider the most vibrant area of Boston. What I love about the SoWa Art and Design District is that you can’t find most of [its occupants] anywhere else. The fact that the artists come together with the galleries, the boutiques, and the restaurants, just makes for an incredible experience.

Debby Krim in her studio

Debby Krim in her studio

What should visitors expect from the Open Studio experience?

What’s really cool about open studios is that there’s only two times in a year that every artist in [450 Harrison] has to open their doors. South End Open Studios encompasses such a large area—from Tremont to Albany, and Harrison Ave is really the heart of the event, particularly the 450 building. The level of work in this building is phenomenal. Every kind of painting, from realist to abstract, oil to encaustic, along with  sculpture, photography, jewelry are represented, it’s such a wide variety of work.

Visitors can expect a really full day and a fun art experience.

How has the South End/SoWa changed since you first moved your studio into this space?

When I first moved into my studio, the interior three floors of 450 Harrison Ave were full of galleries and artists. The ground floor featured Bobby’s of Boston and a few other shops and galleries, but the rest was in development. Soon, all of the galleries within the building moved to the ground floor and their spaces were filled with more artists.  It’s been a blast to watch the area become a really colorful, exciting, arts-focused section of Boston.

The migration of galleries has helped this area to become the center of art in Boston, if not New England. The quality, diversity and quantity of art in this one charming location, with a feel of historic Boston merging with contemporary art, draws attention, which is exactly what we want. We want people to know we exist. Eventually, everyone will become aware of how great it is at 450 & 460 Harrison Ave, and it all started with the artists.

How is the community evolving?

Because of the general awareness that’s happening with the SoWa Art and Design District, the level of artists within the building over the last 12 years has greatly improved. The community within this building is fabulous. There’s a great sharing from artist to artist, and a huge respect towards each other for what each of us is trying to achieve in our own creative style—great camaraderie. About 10 years ago, the SoWa Artists Guild formed within the building, bringing us closer together and unifying our efforts to promote this wonderful and unique neighborhood of artists.  Open Studios is the one time in the year you get to see all 130  artists, for two days, in one building.

This weekend, we encourage Boston to participate in this 30-year legacy of creativity and community. Visit Debby Krim and the other 130 artists who work in the 450 Harrison Ave studios, as well as the 40+ galleries of the SoWa Arts and Design District.

Saturday, September 17, 2016: Puloma Ghosh