Open Studios Event Expands, Adapting to a Changing Chelsea

Event founder Scotto Mycklebust (far right), seen here speaking with visitors to his 526 W. 26th St. studio. | Photo courtesy of the artist

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Scotto Mycklebust is always coming up with new ways to roll with the punches and raise the profile of those who share his creative calling — and his zip code. In 2010, when a hot new destination known as the High Line was about to change the face (and the foot traffic) of West Chelsea, Mycklebust started producing the High Line Open Studios event. That first year, he recalled, “It only included artists who had a studio along, and right next to, the High Line. In 2011, for the West Chelsea Open Studios, I found out there were a lot of artists who worked beyond that boundary, and expanded the area to include much larger sections of the West Chelsea area.”

Ailene Fields’ “Sanctum Porta” (2012, orange translucent alabaster, 36 x 24 x 12 in.) is part of “The Gateway to the Arts” fine art exhibit, on display at The Leo House, June 9–Nov. 9. | Image courtesy of The Leo House

This weekend marks the eighth year for the West Chelsea Artists Open Studios event. Participants from Westbeth Artists Housing and the West Chelsea Arts Building are well-represented, as usual. But of the 45 artists located in 13 buildings, quite a few are both new to the event and far-removed from its initial stomping grounds — including exhibits at The Leo House and the Muhlenberg Library (both on W. 23rd St.), custom clothier Andra Gabrielle on the 300 block of W. 21st St., and painter/muralist Joseph Meloy on the 300 block of W. 28th St.

“The demographics of the neighborhood are quickly changing,” explained Mycklebust, “due the real estate market and all of the new residential buildings. There are becoming fewer and fewer artists who can afford to live and work in West Chelsea.” There will be a major shift moving artists to the outskirts of the neighborhood, or out of it entirely, he predicted, “especially once the Hudson Yards development is completed.”

Keeping Chelsea viable for those whose work has contributed to the neighborhood’s worldwide reputation (say “Chelsea” and our art scene immediately come to mind) is one of the main goals of Open Studios. Those who take the free, self-guided tour can interact with artists and buy from them directly. “I have many success stories,” noted Mycklebust, “from artists who tell me about what has come from these weekend events. They help the career, and they help the development of your art.”

The West Chelsea Artists Open Studios event (a free, self-guided walking tour) happens Sat., June 9 and Sun., June 10, 12-6pm. For info, visit westchelseaartists.com.

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