When was Real Time & Space founded, and why?
Real Time & Space was founded in March 2011 by Emma Spertus and her husband Mark Taylor as a communal studio space where artists could come and work alongside, learn from and exchange ideas with each other. We like to think of RTS as a friendship factory. Emma did not go to graduate school in the Bay Area, so when she returned here, starting a shared studio seemed like a great way to meet other artists and build a community. Her intent was to mimic the atmosphere and access to resources that one might find at a graduate art program – minus the institution and tuition! We are quite excited because we just recently celebrated the fifth year anniversary of RTS.
Renny Pritikin’s “Prescription for a Healthy Arts Scene” lists twenty-three requirements for a robust cultural scene in any city. How do you think the Bay Area is doing, and how does your organization fit in?
We actually have a poster of Renny Pritikin’s twenty-three requirements hanging on a bulletin board in RTS! The Bay Area does well on many of the points — we’re lucky that many local artists, curators, and thinkers have taken it upon themselves to keep the art community alive through alternative art spaces, communal studios, and innovative art events. Where the Bay Area could use more work is in offering more affordable work and living space to artists, and in generating more public awareness and support outside the art community. We could also work on building a stronger art economy; we need more jobs for artists and more opportunities for artists to sell work or be paid for making work. The limited opportunities for exhibitions, grants, and residencies have left a gap in the Bay Area art community. At RTS, we hope to help in filling this need by offering inexpensive studio spaces and a financially supported international residency program.
Who is your audience, who are you trying to serve, and who do you hope to reach?
Our audience includes our studio members (writers, artists, critics, designers), local artists, visiting artists, and anyone else who is interested in learning more about contemporary art through our public presentations. Our residency program allows us to share what Bay Area, national, and international artists are doing with a local audience. Each talk and event brings in new audience members and expands the community we serve. We also hope that RTS bolsters the individual practices of our studio members. Many of our current and past members exhibit regularly at local galleries and museums, or have gone on to graduate MFA programs and received recognition for their work through grants and awards.
Tell us how Real Time & Space is structured. How many people work there? Staff or volunteers or both?
RTS currently has fifteen art studios and nineteen studio members. One of our studios is reserved for our international residency program. Our only paid staff is our current Studio Director, Amy M. Ho, who is also a studio member. Decisions are made via two committees: one that deals with internal studio matters and a second that focuses on public programming and the residency program.
Given that Real Time & Space maintains fifteen work-only artist studios, how do you encourage cross-disciplinary overlapping and collaboration among your resident artists and members? And given that you aim to bring in artists and cultural producers from around the world, could you elaborate on the sorts of conversations (within and beyond the Bay Area) you seek to foster?
The residency program introduces a new artist to the RTS community every month. We look to provide support for a range of artists: from pre-emerging to established.
We ask our artists in residence to give an artist talk or organize a public event during their residency, so that we can offer a non-institutional setting for the public to hear about what our artists are working on, and to engage in conversations directly with the artists. The talks often serve to spark exchanges between artists and visitors to RTS. We pride ourselves on hosting talks and events that we feel reflect what is happening now in the Bay Area art community. I should mention that all our talks are free to the public!
RTS also has many informal events, including happy hours, potlucks, and studio visits, all of which allow our studio members to converse and collaborate. It seems mundane, but the best ideas can come out of conversations over beer or coffee. Collaborative efforts that have come out of RTS include shows at galleries run by or affiliated with RTS studio members, a play written about RTS, and an RTS cookbook. Several studio members have also mounted shows in other cities through RTS’s network of artists and art facilitators.
What is the greatest challenge facing your organization currently?
Rent! We have reasonable rent and a five-year lease, but who knows what will happen after that. As an organization with a physical space we are subject to the whims of the real estate market.
Another challenge our studio members face is finding time to work in the studio. Financial obligations require our residents to hold other jobs that take away from studio time. We have lost some studio members to more affordable cities like LA and Atlanta.
We’re of the opinion that a healthy arts ecosystem requires critical mass, but these are challenging times for arts institutions, especially smaller ones: Any words of advice for others interested in starting an organization like Real Time and Space?
Break the mold! Get creative in finding new ways to support artists and art making. Also, for artists starting organizations, be careful to set aside time for your individual practice and art-making.
What should we be asking you?
“What are the benefits to working in a community?”
Working as an artist can be lonely. At RTS, it’s easy to pop over to the neighboring studio member and ask for some feedback on a project you might be stuck on. It’s also supportive to be around peers who are struggling with the challenges of being an artist. RTS offers a system for built-in community and opportunities to share spontaneously. In the studio we often see intentional and accidental transmission of ideas between artists.