By Rona Marech
San Francisco Chronicle 10/3/03

Emeryville – all 1.25 square miles of it – is probably best known for its shiny shopping centers.  But as toasty-warm as the city has been to developers, it also has a longstanding and healthy relationship with the significant population of artists who live and work there.

Fifteen years ago, the city helped a group of artists buy a building that became the 45th Street Cooperative, a live-work space for 56 artists.  That act of generosity led to the formation of the city’s pro-arts committee, which eventually led to a yearly show of local art.

Now the 17th Emeryville Art Exhibition, which features the work of more than 100 of the city’s artists and craftspeople, opens Saturday in an 8,500-square-foot space that was donated by the developers of the new Bay Street mall.

The city contributed about $30,000 to the exhibition – roughly half the budget.  “The city really values the arts,” said organizer Sharon Wilchar.  It sees the arts community as being one of its assets.”

The exhibit will feature paintings, sculpture, textiles, photographs, ceramics, jewelry and glass works.  Mari Andrews has contributed a large steel wire sculpture.  Therese Lahaie will show a kinetic piece – etched glass surfaces move to create dramatic, almost oceanic shadows.

“The interesting thing I see in a lot of the art is a combination of media,” said curator Paul Tomidy.  “It all weaves together.  It’s confusing to some people but it’s exciting.”

This year, the number of applications from hopeful participants rose to around 150.  To make their selections, jurors Tomidy, Robbin Henderson, director of the Berkeley Art Center, and Andrea Voinot, the manager of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery, visited each artist in person over a three-day period.  These visits – a triumph of planning only possible because Emeryville is so geographically compact – are intended to give those without professional slides an equal chance.

Around 30 percent of this year’s participant’s work in the businesses and corporations that dot the city, including Ask Jeeves and Chiron Corp., Wilchar said.  The artists range in age from 20 to 80.  Some, such as M. Louise Stanley, Linda Goodman, Tracy West, and Lahaie, are nationally or internationally known; others have never shown their work before.

“A number of people are self trained, true primitives.  There’s something heartwarming about their work too, in the way it tells stories,” Tomidy said.