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Open Studios Bring Exciting Art Alternatives (Excerpt)


SAN FRANCISCO -- If the San Francisco art scene is dead, you'd never know it at the 28th annual SF Open Studios. Art-seekers can avoid dour downtown galleries or posthumous exhibitions at SFMOMA this month, because for the next four weekends, SF Open Studios bring to life the work of 800 local, contemporary artists, including Rik Livingston, Tofu, and Charles Stinson.

Rik Livingston is curator of the Whitney Young Cultural Center and part of SF Open Studios in October.

Artist Rik Livingston, 44, the director of Visual Arts at the Whitney Young Gallery in the Haight, hopes that this month art enthusiasts will look outside the mainstream art venues for fine art.

"The fine arts scene is really coming back with cool galleries popping up in the Mission, and now we have a gallery in the Haight," he said, sitting in his showroom housed in a century-old, gray Edwardian mansion turned gallery at Page and Masonic.

The Kansas-born artist, who became notable in this city for transforming found objects into humorous works of art, once showed at five local galleries.

But when the galleries were shut out during the dot-com boom, he was left without any outlets for his work. To gain a forum for his art, Livingston connected with SF Open Studios in 2000. "It's important that San Francisco, a world class art city, have an event that showcases art," he said, "aside from Downtown galleries with high rent that mainly exhibit established artists."

His theme at this year's event is "Quality," with an alumni show featuring the most professional artists from previous shows, according to Livingston. "If patrons see a whole bunch of stars at one location, they're more likely to come," he said.

Among the humorous cartoon-like paintings at his exhibit, visitors can expect to see an acrylic painting on three wooden panels inspired by Rousseau's "The Dream," depicting a masked Livingston toasting his muse in his former living room, before a mythological background. "It's a humorous take on creative inspiration," he said....

...But all three artists would agree that money is only part of why they continue to do Open Studios. "Art is part of our evolution," Rik Livingston said. "We can't function imaginatively and our society can't evolve without it."

Rik Livingston will show at the Whitney Young Gallery at 1101 Masonic St. on Oct, 4-5 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.