On March 7, 2020, The Art Studio, Inc. was filled with people looking at art, drinking wine, conversing with each other — just a typical exhibition opening night. Little did anyone know, that would be TASI’s last in-person art opening for 18 months.
On Sept. 4, The Studio will open its doors for the Tenants Show. Fittingly, the show is titled “Re-Emergence.” Assistant director Stephanie Orta said the show’s title is the theme for the 2021-22 art season.
“Throughout this year, being so secluded from the community, (we feel) like we’re doing our part to be reborn and show that we haven’t been sleeping through these two years,” she said.
Ironically, the number of TASI tenants has doubled during the pandemic, Orta said, adding that the pandemic may have motivated some artists to find an outlet to stop going crazy during lockdown.
“It may have been beneficial for those who may have never done it (before), but it’s also hurt us from keeping people who did it every weekend to not want to do it at all, or not to do it as often,” Orta said. “We’ve seen it both ends.”
Ashley Watson Stephens has been a tenant since December 2019. This is not only her first tenant show, but also her first exhibition of any kind. Watson Stephens joined The Studio when she decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in nutrition and dietetics at Lamar University. Her husband didn’t want her art stuff all over the house, she laughed. She is a painter whose vibrantly colored work is inspired by nature.
Watson Stephens said she is more nervous than excited. “I don’t want to be the worst person in the show,” she said. “I’m trying to be brave and put myself out there. I don’t like being vulnerable.”
Tenant James Allen King, a multi-media artist, has been tenant for five years. When he is not working in his space in the annex, he is a Bosun on Ready Reserve ships docked at the port.
“I found The Art Studio on my first day in town,” he said. “Working on the ship, I didn’t want to spend all my (free) time in bars.”
King is working on a pair of mashrabiya screens, based on the historical screens found on balconies in the MIddle East and Africa, for the show. The complex screens are put together like puzzles and King is racing to get them finished in time for the opening. Even though TASI has done a good job keeping connected with the community, King said is excited to see what his fellow tenants have been doing during the pandemic.
“I don’t know what half the tenants have been working on,” he said. “It’s a chance to see what everyone’s been doing.”
TASI director and founder Greg Busceme said this is the 35th season-opening show. He is looking forward to having people seeing the art in person, although the show will still be viewable online, as the other shows in the past 18 months have been.
“We’ve had about the same amount of viewers (online) and sold about the same amount of work, and we’ve had other small gatherings welcoming the community to The Art Studio, but this will be our first completely open to the public invitation to visit The Art Studio after hours,” he said, adding that it will be good to reconnect with old friends.
“I’ve met most of these people every year for 15 years and then we have a year where we don’t see anybody, so it’s been an emotional trial for all of us,” he said. “But we feel better knowing we are getting out there and being in front of people.”
Orta said visitors are asked to respect COVID protocols and masks are encouraged.
“We encourage what is comfortable for each individual,” she said. “If that is wearing your mask, please do and respect people’s distance. We are a very large facility, and never have we met full capacity, so we expect to have plenty of space to mingle, and we have some outdoor options for those who feel overwhelmed.”
Tenant spaces are available at $85 a month. Intermediate spaces are $35 a month with full access to the building in communal spaces to make artwork.
“Re-Emergence” opens with a free reception from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sept. 4, at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.
For more information, visit www.artstudio.org, or The Art Studio Facebook page.
This story originally ran in the Aug. 27, 2021, Beaumont Enterprise Art of Living section.