They know they may never make it to the Metropolitan Museum. And, at this point, they're not even trying. But what they are aiming for, according to one member of the quasi-cooperative O Street Artists, is "a little exposure, a little recognition" in the seesaw Washington arts scene.
Last weekend, seven of the nine-member group--along with 100 other area artists--took advantage of the fourth annual "Open Studio" to get some exposure. Arranged by the Washington Project for the Arts, the city-wide opening was split into two consecutive weekends--last weekend for uptown artists and the coming weekend for those downtown.
While there were shows elsewhere in the city, the O Street Artists opened their roomy Victorian rowhouse-turned-studio, on the corner of 21st and O streets NW, to display a sampling of their own flea market of creative wares--Chinese watercolors and hand-painted silks, paper pulp sculptures and acrylics on Masonite.
At the O Street site, the visitor flow began as a sporadic trickle of fellow artists and friends. A total of 80 or more stopped by the studio during the three-day weekend, but few came in to buy.
"The desire is there," said Donna Kortz, a visitor eyeing a lilac watercolor piece, "but the money isn't. I just like looking at the artwork--and I will as long as my feet hold up."
"You don't expect to make a living off of this," said Anne Marchand, an acrylic painter who does part-time secretarial work. "It's such a sporadic type thing. You can't count on it. So, we do what we have to do to pay the bills, but this . . . we love."
They each pay $100 a month, plus utilities, to rent studio space in the quasi-cooperative. It is there where one lawyer, one librarian, a waitress, physical therapist, stereo salesman, three full-time artists and Marchand come to work.
Marchand estimates that each artist averages no more than $5,000 a year from his chosen avocation, which is just enough to buy supplies, pay the studio rent and pocket a little on the side.
"It would be great for someone from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to come here and say, 'Hey, you're just what we're looking for!' " said Steve Foster, the stereo salesman who does collages. "But that chance is a one in a million. So, until then, our satisfaction has to be here."