Anna Conti and husband David Sumner have made opening their home to fellow artists a cornerstone in their lives in the 25 years they’ve rented the Spanish-style typical Sunset District row house at 41st Avenue and Judah Street.
“We had a weekly dinner for a time on Wednesdays, we hosted artist roundtables on Fridays here, and I don’t know how many variations on open studio days we’ve participated in,” Conti, a painter, says from her former living room.
Now the house is giving artists sanctuary in a new way. Conti and Sumner have transformed the front rooms of their home into a roughly 372-square-foot gallery they call BigCrow Studio, with an emphasis on showing works by local artists, many of whom are longtime friends and part of a vanishing working-class artist population in San Francisco that has found itself in a kind of diaspora because of rising rents.
The idea for BigCrow Studio’s public opening came to Conti, 63, and Sumner, 56, in the fall after they sold much of their furniture to pay for medical expenses relating to Sumner’s eight-year fight with leukemia and in anticipation of eventually downsizing their living situation. The couple, who are retired and rely on Conti’s Social Security, looked at the empty walls and saw an exhibition space. After ripping up the wall-to-wall carpet, cleaning the hardwood underneath and giving the walls a few coats of paint, Conti and Sumner curated BigCrow’s first show, “Premiere,” which opened in October, featuring 40 works by over a dozen artists. The show, like all shows thus far at BigCrow, mainly utilized the former living and dining rooms and eventually spread out into the foyer and hall.
“It may seem like we uprooted our lives to do this, but really, the gallery is just a logical extension of what we’ve done for years — inviting our friends to share their work,” photographer Sumner says. “Now we have official hours for the public to visit on Fridays and Saturdays.”
In addition to giving artists opportunities to present work, it was also important to Conti and Sumner that they not take a commission or consignment fee… (more)
This is a story about some San Francisco artists who have the BeauxArts spirit. They are creative people who are getting by and sharing what they can. The italicize the word sharing because it has taken on a dark new meaning in San Francisco. It is part of the language that describes the disruptive technologies that may be coming your way soon if they have not already.
But this is a warm and friendly sharing. Read on for more inspiring ideas coming from Anna Conti, David Sumner, and friends.