SMO— Santa Monica Art Studios is celebrating its ninth anniversary with an open house this weekend, but Director Yossi Govrin said the earliest seeds of the project go back more than a dozen years.
“There was basically nothing,” he said. “There was just a beautiful hangar. We built it all but it was really exciting to do as an artist.”
The first artists walked into a 22,000-square-foot empty hangar next to Santa Monica Airport.
“We said ‘where do you want your space?’” Govrin said. “And they said, ‘somewhere around here.’ There were no walls, you know? And we said OK. We put the walls around them.”
Today, white sheet rock walls separate studios for 36 artists showcasing pieces ranging from a giant, pointalistic pastel-colored horse painting to dozens of faceless, plaster humanoid statues.
Govrin said they competed with MTV and Santa Monica College for the space, but the City Council signed the building over to him.
His past creations include a hand sculpture commissioned by Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh and a set piece built for “Iron Man 3.”
He’s as interested in creating art as he is in creating a stimulating work environment.
“A lot of artists work in solitude,” he said. “They don’t mingle around. I studied sociology and international relations so community is very interesting for me. Why should artists work by themselves? Even if your work is amazingly diverse and different, you still get some kind of influence, consciously or unconsciously, you get something.”
As Govrin spoke about the community, a loud plane engine cut him off.
“They are fine,” he said gesturing up after the plane passed. “They are great. There’s a lot of noise from the neighborhood to close the airport and stuff. We hope they don’t, actually. It’s exciting.”
In another studio space, Susan Feldman was hanging work for the open house: horizontal pieces of wood interspersed with knitted rectangles held together by two vertical wires forming a ladder.
“There’s one thing about doing your art in your garage and working alone for a while and there’s another thing about sharing,” she said. “I really enjoy being around the other artists and seeing what they’re doing. It’s like a family, really. It’s really tight knit. And as much alike as we are, we’re very different.”
Feldman has been working at the studio for three years.
Sometimes the artists teach each other how to use tools or share ideas.
“I think all the energy is up here, all of the ideas,” Feldman said pointing toward the high metal ceiling, which is visible from every studio. “That’s what this work is about. Ladders climbing up.”
As she pointed, another plane engine cut the silence.
She laughed: “I don’t even hear it anymore.”
The event will be held Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will include workshops, lectures and exhibitions from 38 artists. Santa Monica Art Studios is located at 3026 Airport Ave.