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Sugar House Journal

Avenues Open Studios: Giving artists ‘off the grid’ their exposure

Aug 29, 2019 12h17 ● By Jennifer J Johnson

“Art off the grid” is the concept of the free Sept. 28 Avenues Open Studio tour. The project is the brainchild of local artist Anne Albaugh, who invites metro area residents to come experience artists exhibiting in Salt Lake’s Avenues neighborhood. (Photo Anne Albaugh)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Avenues area artist-activist Anne Albaugh is not someone who waits for others to do things. 

When she sees a problem or an opportunity, she gets creative to either solve the problem or to maximize the opportunity. 

Or most ideally, to do both simultaneously — to not kill two birds with one stone, but, through access to their art, make them freer to share their beauty with a wider audience.

Galleries part of the problem for artists, according to Albaugh

“The galleries don’t want you, unless you are well known or a moneymaker,” she said.

Here, Albaugh is being classic Albaugh.

Albaugh herself does not have the problem of not being well known, of not being a moneymaker, or of not having gallery representation. These are problems she see others experiencing. The result, with her being the democratic person she is, kicks her into overdrive.

Renowned for oil-painted landscapes of the western United States, some of which have been featured by the National Weather Center, Albaugh is one of the area’s lucky fine artists to receive gallery representation. However, getting signed with a gallery was not all she thought it would be.

Galleries, as Albaugh sees it, are more problem than solution for artists and for art lovers seeking exposure to art.

Her reasoning goes like this: Artists figuratively kill themselves to get gallery representation. Only a sliver achieve that. Then once that sliver does gain representation? Only a tiny sliver of that tiny sliver actually gets shown and promoted by the gallery. It is a problem that publications ranging from the insider “Art Business” to the more general “Slate” have underscored.

“Art—Off the Grid.”

One night, Albaugh and a few fellow Avenues’ artists were kvetching about the local gallery grip on struggling artists and what could be done to enable more artists to get more exposure.

The idea for an Avenues-based, one-day exposure event “with no rules and ultimate access” took hold. Avenues Open Studios quickly moved from concept to creation.

The concept of Avenues Open Studios is essential to Albaugh. When she starts sharing materials about this year’s event, the first thing she sends over is not a schedule, a list of artists, or even tantalizing images the artists will show. Rather, it is her statement of purpose for what has now become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization: No judging.
No censoring. No exclusion – everyone welcome. All ages. All disciplines.

These precepts define what Albaugh lovingly, committedly called “Art—Off the Grid.”

Avenues Open Studio 2019—six years, 22 artists, new artistic media

This month Avenues Open Studios celebrates its sixth year. A slate of 22 artists will be offering their wares in existing studios in the Avenues, as well as homes and even participating businesses, such as longtime supporter and sponsor Cucina in the lower Avenues.

Some of the artists, like Albaugh and Avenues colleague Pilar Pobil, considered one of the 15 most-influential artists in the state of Utah, are well known and well heeled. 

Some are established, and some are total newcomers just beginning to introduce their art.

Some do not even live in the Avenues. These “adopted” artists either arrange to show in the studios of other Avenues’ artists, or get help from Albaugh. Federal Heights resident Barbara Murphy has shown her art multiple years in locations like Cucina.

“Everyone is welcome!” is Albaugh’s overarching message. “We are easygoing.”

Artists span media as well as notoriety. Participating artists range from those producing artisan paper and paper boxes, to felted wool hats, to jewelers. This year, Albaugh is enthused about the project’s first-time inclusion of a clothing designer.

Navigating Avenues Open Studios

Salt Lake’s “Avenues” is the city’s and the metropolitan area’s first neighborhood. Its perfectly grid-like, closely laid out roads and what refers to as “eclectic and eccentric” neighborhood make it a perfect spot for the project.

Avenues Open Studios includes properties from South Temple to 11
th Avenue, and from H Street to Virginia Street.

This year’s Avenues Open Studios runs from 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28. Learn more at the “2019 Avenues Open Studio tStroll” page on Facebook.