Faced with an expiring lease and a competitive real estate industry, a dozen resident artists of the Peninsula Museum of Art have found a new home in the Industrial Art District of San Carlos.
By July 5, Ruth Waters, the founder and executive director of the museum, along with 11 additional artists will be fully moved out of their current home in Burlingame and into studios in Art Bias, a San Carlos based art studio facility at 1700 Industrial Road.
“The unwelcome news is that we are closing the museum and studios because the building is scheduled for redevelopment,” said Waters.
The Burlingame location owned by Mario Muzzi is slated for redevelopment, turning the 1.7 acre site into mixed-use units to accommodate retail, commercial and residential spaces. A permanent location for the various 2D and 3D pieces the museum once held on display has yet to be found, forcing Waters to hire a moving team and place the art in climate-controlled storage units.
“The museum is going into storage,” said Waters through email. “Money is tight, but what alternative do we have?”
The museum had been facing financial hardship following the countywide shelter-in-place order announced mid-March which required all nonessential businesses, including museums, to close its doors to the public.
Waters said the institution’s business model largely ran on public donations and classes taught in artist’s studios, two revenue streams hindered by an economic downturn. Tom Chapman, the building manager of Art Bias said art is the first expense to go following hardship.
“During a crisis like this, the first thing people stop appreciating and buying is art,” he said.
Neil Murphy, an artist with the museum, called the Burlingame location an “absolutely wonderful jewel” and noted he had worked out of his studio there for the seven years the lease allowed. He said losing the location was a disappointment — adding his new studio is smaller and comes without the foot traffic brought in by museumgoers.
“It’s so rare to have an active museum with active studios,” he said. “What we are leaving behind is the absolute most amazing thing.”
Murphy said he hopes the community will embrace the new location by booking classes and purchasing art pieces but he noted the outcome of the move remained to be seen. Chapman said he understands how difficult it is for the artists to relocate having done so twice with Art Bias.
“The way the real estate market is in the Peninsula is crazy. If you’ve ever tried to rent something you’d understand,” he said.
When Chapmen was tasked with relocating Art Bias, formerly the Redwood City Art Center on Broadway, he said a dozen artists from the original location followed him to San Carlos. A “long lease” was signed for the second floor of the building and after 5 years, the facility has grown to incorporate the first floor as well, making way to welcome some of PMA’s artists for a total of 49 studios.
“I’ve always been very optimistic,” said Chapman. “I think everything is going to work out really well.”
Waters has also remained positive through the transition noting staff will continue to share future exhibitions on the museum website and that she is still on the hunt for a new location to accommodate the art pieces. In the meantime, she will be moving her sculptures to a studio on the first floor of Art Bias where she will continue to create.