Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
The Shop at Flywheel Press owners Jenn Ludwig and Amber Seguine prepare for August’s First Friday art event at their studio at 309 Seventh Ave. in downtown San Mateo.
Photo Courtesy of Flywheel Press
Visitors gather at a previous First Friday event at the Shop at Flywheel Press in San Mateo.
A group of San Mateo artists are inviting the public to come join the city’s newly expanded First Friday, now at three open studio locations.
First Fridays are a popular event held in cities throughout the United States and San Mateo artists hope to create a thriving event by opening the doors to Claremont Studios, Peninsula Studios and The Shop at Flywheel Press.
The Shop at Flywheel Press, which first began the local event about a year ago, has organized a street market filled with vendors selling locally crafted good, drinks, a food truck and live music for the public to enjoy this Friday.
“It’s a nationally recognized event that happens all over the country and usually it happens in art districts. But San Mateo doesn’t really have an art district,” Flywheel Press owner Amber Seguine said. “We kind of just took it upon ourselves to host the first First Friday and it’s grown a ton and it’s amazing.”
Seguine said she started Flywheel Press, a graphic design studio and stationary store in 2011, and expanded the shop with co-owner Jenn Ludwig in 2013.
The Shop at Flywheel Press now morphs an art school, gallery, print studio and store into a community design center on B Street and Seventh Avenue in downtown. This Friday, their gallery doors will also be wide open for the public to peruse local fine art.
The recently opened Claremont Studios joined in the event in June and August’s First Friday will include Peninsula Studios for the first time, artist Lorna Watt said.
As one of the founders of the recently established nonprofit, the Downtown Art Project, Watt said she’s thrilled to see local artists taking it upon themselves to create community events exhibiting San Mateo talent.
“The Downtown Art Project and the city are trying to kindle an arts and innovation district and so I think it’s important when something like [this] has a grassroots element, that it can grow out of and I think First Friday is a chance for everyone to see and interact with the arts in San Mateo,” Watt said.
Nancy Garcia, manager of Peninsula Studios on North Idaho Street, said Watt contacted her about joining in and she can’t imagine a better way to spend a Friday night.
“It will be a good night for people who like to look at art and see what’s going on in an artist’s studio and meet some great people,” Garcia said.
Peninsula Studios has participated in the annual Silicon Valley Open Studios, but it’s not often that the public has an opportunity to peek in and meet the artists in person.
“I think our studios have been around for a couple of years and I think it’s a nice way to let people in the community know that we exist,” Garcia said. “People can come in and take a look at working artists’ studios. There will be artists there and people can talk to the artists about their process and what they do, so it’s nice to be able to come and learn about art.”
Seguine said outside of a school, it can be difficult for artists to find a creative community, particularly when living in a more suburban area like San Mateo.
“There wasn’t a venue showing that these things do exist here,” Seguine said. “People can see they don’t have to travel far because it’s right here in your backyard. We wanted to make sure people see they don’t have to go to the city or to Oakland to see art and meet really unique people.”
Seguine said the event not only encourages a creative community, it also supports downtown. Seguine said they encourage visitors to frequent downtown restaurants then stop by their shop and street fair for a great Friday night out.
Watt agreed without a centralized arts district, it can be more challenging for artists to meet and less conducive to a typical First Friday for the public. The Claremont Studios and Flywheel Press are within walking distance, but it’s more realistic for people to drive to the three open studios.
Watt said she wants to investigate working to create more of a street fair event with local artists near Railroad Avenue in downtown eventually, but that will likely take a concerted effort.
“It comes down to who’s willing to roll up their sleeves and put the work in to join us. It really is grassroots which is cool because it makes it more authentic,” Watt said. “I think it’s really important for local artists to discover and find each other in San Mateo. … Because without events like this, there’s little ways for artists to connect.”
First Friday is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Aug. 1. The Shop at Flywheel Press is located at 309 Seventh Ave., San Mateo. For more information visit www.facebook.com/flywheelpress. The Claremont Studios are located 1515 S. Claremont St., San Mateo. The Peninsula Studios are located at 1022 N. Idaho St., San Mateo. For more information visit peninsulastudios.wordpress.com.
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