Arts & Theater

Local artists open their homes for First Friday at the WAL

Doug Cupid, a photographer and resident at Warehouse Artist Lofts, recently moved to Sacramento from Orlando, Fla. He collaborates with artists at WAL on photo sessions.
Doug Cupid, a photographer and resident at Warehouse Artist Lofts, recently moved to Sacramento from Orlando, Fla. He collaborates with artists at WAL on photo sessions. eking@sacbee.com

On the first Friday of every month, residents at Warehouse Artist Lofts open their studio doors to the public to showcase artwork available for purchase in an event across the historic R Street District involving the entire block of 11th, 12th, and R streets and the entire seven-story WAL building.

First Friday offers a different take on the classic gallery experience, giving locals the chance to interact with and experience Sacramento’s burgeoning arts scene. First Friday also gives area residents a chance to support artists, many of whom sell their original works at the event.

The income-adjusted, mixed-use building boasts 116 rental apartments and hundreds of artists who inhabit the space.

“Many residents are from different countries, representing different arts from crocheting to painting to singing, acting, photography. You name it, and someone here probably does it,” said Suzy Sharpe, a 63-year-old painter and dancer and one of WAL’s earliest residents.

Some of the WAL-mates are on the verge of breaking through, like Jose DiGregorio, a painter who is creating murals in Mexico and Amsterdam.

“He’s right here, and you can talk to him on First Friday,” Sharpe said.

The experience varies each month as different artists participate by opening their homes to display their work.

A couple of First Fridays ago, photographer Doug Cupid and makeup artist Ernesto Robledo joined forces to offer visitors free five-minute makeovers and professional photos.

During another First Friday, visitors were invited to sit down and create bracelets and magnets.

“WAL gives starving artists the ability to focus, which is what art needs. And it’s what the city needs,” said James Kinloch, building director.

“Because what is life without art? What is life without poetry, music, dance, theater, all of those things? This is what makes life so rich and enjoyable. Sacramento would benefit from it. It’s all about contributing to the growth of the city,” Kinloch said.

WAL residents are chosen from a long waitlist that Kinloch said can last up to four years. Prospective applicants must demonstrate to a panel that they’ve been involved in their artistic discipline, and that it’s not just a fragment of their life.

Speaking about the role of the arts in the larger community, WAL resident and furniture-maker Trent Dean said, “It’s easy to lose sight on how important the arts are. Any city can build cool buildings and have a sports team and stuff, but cities don’t really thrive unless there’s a vibrant arts community.

“A lot of people have a lack of understanding about what Sacramento artists are doing, or whether or not they even exist or are working at the level they are. People just write it off. They think of New York or Miami and don’t look in their own backyard.

“It’s an electric place, full of serendipity. With so many minds buzzing around, something beautiful is always bound to happen.”

Trisha Rhomberg, a clothing designer and jewelry-maker, said part of First Friday’s goal is to bring Second Saturday’s focus back to art.

“The evening is essentially about being open,” Rhomberg said. “Maybe you’ll discover a new artist that you’ve never seen before. Maybe your mind will be blown by somebody you didn’t know existed. Maybe you’ll run into somebody. I met my fiancé and the father of my child at an art opening. Come and you’ll learn something new. You’ll see something you never saw before.”

WAL is at 1108 R St., Sacramento. The event takes place 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

Note: There won’t be a First Friday in September because of the Verge Sac Open Studio Tour, but the event will return on a regular basis starting in October.

Emily King: 916-321-1038

WAL First Friday

Where: Warehouse Artist Lofts, 1108 R St., Sacramento

When: 6 to 9 p.m. first Friday of every month

Note: There won’t be a First Friday in September because of the Verge Sac Open Studio Tour, but the event will return on a regular basis starting in October.

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