Somerville Open Studios is not just about art, it's also a good opportunity to check out some local bands and contribute to unique "outsider" art created by those with emotional and physical disabilities.
The "It's a Gift" store in Union Square will be holding a fund raising concert from 1 to 8 p.m. on both May 1 and May 2 of open studios weekend.
Local bands will play acoustic music, and people can have their shirts silk screened for a fee of $10, with an image of their choice, whether it be their favorite band's logo or image of outsider art. There will be a rack of clothing on hand for those who don't bring in a shirt to be silk screened. There will be a $5 entry fee.
"It's a Gift" is an art gallery that has been run by the Walnut Street Center for the past few years. Most recently, the gallery partnered with Outside the Lines in Medford to become "Creative Union."
The Walnut Street Center serves the developmentally delayed community by offering numerous support services, including those centered on creating art, which is shown and sold at the It's a Gift store. Outside the Lines is an arts-based alternative day program, collectively run by artists and for those with developmental and physical disabilities.
One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of the fund raiser is the response from the Somerville music community, said Allison Stroh, an art therapist and art promotion chairperson for Outside the Lines. A friend of Stroh's put out a call for musicians for the fundraiser in her online magazine, The Deli, and within a week over 20 bands expressed interest in donating their talent and time for our cause, Stroh said.
"This generosity has been welcoming and encouraging as we move into the Union Square community," she said.
Outside the Lines had been looking for a place to show and sell artists work, and the Walnut Street Center was looking for a way to partner with an organization to make the store self supporting. The partnership between Outside the Lines and the Walnut Street Center was a perfect union.
Organizers want Creative Union to be a true partnership with the community to become an artist cooperative, said Anyahlee Cañas, the art program coordinator for the WSC. Local artists can rent out It's a Gift for a solo or group show, in return for gallery sitting duties. People can also rent the space to hold workshops. The art created by Walnut Street Center and Outside the Lines artists will continue to occupy a designated space in the gallery.
It's a Gift will also extend its hours to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and weekends to allow the after-work crowd to come shop.
"The idea is to become a part of the community," Cañas said.
Outside the Lines Studio and Walnut Street Center artists have already been collaborating on some projects. Both groups of artists have created a large installation project in a window at 310 Mass Ave. across from the Middlesex lounge, which will be up through the summer. The artists also hope to run a community project in Davis Square during ArtBeat in July that involves puppet making, Cañas said.
The union of Outside the Lines Studio and Walnut Street also features some similarities with the feel of Somerville Open Studios, Stroh added.
"I have found that as an artist it can be tempting to isolate and be protective of your ideas and products," she said. "Like the hundreds of artists opening the doors of their studios for Somerville Open Studios, we are taking the risk of sharing and joining our resources and energy and it has taken on a more vibrant life of its own than we ever expected."
And offering places like Outside the Lines is essential for people with disabilities who want an identity beyond being a disabled person, Stroh said.
"People feel like they are understood here," she said. "We enjoy everyone's' uniqueness and unconventional ways."
Outside the Lines' goal this year was to branch out into the community, as the center is currently tucked behind the railroad tracks in Medford in a relatively remote location.
"This is an exciting way to get to know the Union Square community," she said.