The Importance of Caffeine

September 21, 2007
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The Creation of the Jamaica Plain Open Studios Booklet

There are 20 extra pages inserted in this issue of the Gazette—20 pages representing over 220 artists, businesses, cultural, educational and faith-based organizations, gallons of coffee, countless volunteer hours and two days of some of the best art and community involvement in Jamaica Plain.

Next Sat. and Sun., Sept. 29 and 30, the 14th annual Jamaica Plain Open Studios (JPOS) will spill art out on to the streets of JP from group sites and individual studios all over town. This free event is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. For more information, visit www.jpopenstudios.com or call 943-7819. Or you can browse the booklet in this newspaper—your guide to planning a weekend of incomparable art and inspiration.

How did this booklet with maps and information, which represents so much and literally opens doors, get here?

In January, the volunteer members of the Jamaica Plain Arts Council (JPAC) start mulling over covers, layouts and design ideas. In February, spirited discussions regarding artist registration, web site design, fund-raising events, marketing, publicity and ad solicitation take place. March and April find volunteers connecting with advertisers, contributors and the many others that make JPOS possible. In May, artists register and then the JPAC board gets really busy.

Once artists register, JPAC sorts them by individual sites, business locations and group sites. This year, they received a record number of registrations and a record number of requests for space at group sites at the Brewery Complex, the Eliot School, the Loring-Greenough House, the First Unitarian Universalist Church and the Central Congregational Church. Determining which artists go where is an art form in of itself, and takes into account artist preference, media and space considerations.

“We joke that it’s like herding cats or shoveling water. It’s difficult to get your arms around at first,” says JPOS Coordinator Jean Mineo.

The JPAC also has to account for the many other places artists show.

“JP businesses are very supportive of the artists and provide their spaces for the artists to show and sell their work at no cost. It’s a real challenge to make sure we list the artists in the right locations, but the reward is that the public can have a lot of fun visiting places like Red Sun Press, the Taylor House Bed and Breakfast or J.P. Licks and find artists talking about their work,” Mineo says.

As the title “Open Studios” implies, though, the majority of locations, over 60 percent, are artists’ studios which provide the unusual opportunity to see the space where the art is created.

The final piece of organization is to divide all of the locations into neighborhoods which are defined as Green Street, Centre Street, South Street, the Brewery Complex and Hyde Square.

“Believe it or not, a volunteer actually walks the different routes to make sure the paths are equal to about a half-hour walk, “ Mineo says.

Once the artist listings are complete, a graphic designer creates the overall layout and accounts for advertisements, maps and other text for the booklet. The process involves several late-night sessions fueled by large amounts of coffee and enthusiasm.

“I started organizing the artist listings for the maps several years ago, and now I feel like I am the walking JPOS map, since I know the artists, their work, and their locations,” says Joy Cochran, co-president of the JPAC. “I love this event because of the diversity of locations and work.”

Before being printed, the booklet gets proofed by the JPAC and the artists twice—once online and once as a printed draft. The final edits are made, and over 100,000 booklets are printed in August. Most booklets are distributed as insertions in newspapers. Others are available at businesses, and the artists mail them to their own contacts. During Open Studios, booklets are available at information booths located at J.P. Licks (659 Centre St.), the Eliot School (24 Eliot St.), the Brewery (284 Amory St.) and Red Sun Press (94 Green St.).

“Creating the booklet is a Herculean effort made all the more impressive because it’s mostly done by volunteer efforts. But in reality, it’s an accurate representation of the Open Studios event itself and one of those rare opportunities to connect to other people and work collaboratively to accomplish something meaningful,” says Mineo.

JPOS is supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events.

Submitted by Jamaica Plain Open Studios volunteers.