SoWa Artists Guild “First Friday” brings joy, belonging to local artists

An entrance to the SoWa guild studio building on Harrison Ave. (Photo by Katrina Liu/BU News Service)

By Katrina Liu
Boston University News Service

Nearly 100 painters, sculptors and other artists opened their studios up for the SoWa Artists Guild’s monthly “First Friday” event on Oct. 1., a monthly event where artists present and sell their work to the public at the guild’s building on Harrison Avenue, south of Washington Street in Boston.

Among the work showcased were paintings, photographs, and jewelry. While some artists sold completed work, others demonstrated their process as they worked through a piece while attendees observed. As people wandered into the studios where art was displayed or being curated, artists could greet them and answer their questions. 

A painter and founder of the guild, Stephen Silver said he started the guild over a decade ago after seeing an influx of artists moving into SoWa. Short for “South of Washington,” the neighborhood is a small alcove on the border of the South End and Roxbury that has become a hub for local artists over the years. 

Silver said he noticed that the few artists already in the building were opening their doors to the public on the first Friday of every month, so he decided to make it an official event.

“I talked to a bunch of other artists and said ‘So what do you think? Should we open up? Why don’t we do First Fridays?’” Silver said. “And then I came up with the concept of actually creating a group and formalizing it.” 

“We distribute our pamphlets and booklets to hotels around the area and all over the city, because people are always asking ‘Where’s the art area?’ or suggestions on places to go,” said Silver.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, photographer and guild member Sharon Schindler said many people are looking to buy art pieces to decorate their homes after having to quarantine and self-isolate.

“Especially now, people are spending a lot of time in their homes or apartments, so I think that they’re gonna want to buy something different,” Schindler said. 

Schindler also highlighted the strength of the SoWa Artists Guild community. She said she took pleasure in being able to share her photos with visitors and fellow artists.

“It’s a nice community and a very open, giving community. You all learn from each other,” she said.

Mary Ryan — who said she does not have a studio in SoWa but likes to paint watercolors in her kitchen — handed out brochures at the event while answering questions and welcoming guests to the event.

“It’s humbling seeing a community of artists like this and seeing people want to come and look at and buy art,” Ryan said.

Silver added that seeing the general public enjoy his work makes him feel proud.

“Some people walk in and they really hang around,” he said. “Maybe they don’t have two cents to their name and they can never afford to buy it. But you can tell they’re really enjoying what they’re looking at. It makes you feel good, just bringing somebody a little bit of joy.”

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