City Beat

Art drives R Street emergence

Beatnik Studios in the R Street Corridor is trying to expand its art gallery focus as its co-founders spearhead a new First Friday art walk in the neighborhood.
Beatnik Studios in the R Street Corridor is trying to expand its art gallery focus as its co-founders spearhead a new First Friday art walk in the neighborhood. rlillis@sacbee.com

While some neighborhoods in this city get slapped with made-up names before they’re even built, R Street has tried to remain genuine.

And as the area distinguishes itself from the rest of the central city, art is at the center of everything. That’s happening again with a new First Friday art walk in the corridor.

“This area is reinventing itself,” Wes Davis said last week.

Davis and Lindsay Calmettes – co-founders of Beatnik Studios – are spearheading the monthly art walk as they seek to take advantage of their neighborhood’s artistic movement.

Three events have been held since October at venues around the R Street Corridor, including at Arthouse, 1810 Gallery and Raphael Delgado’s gallery. A smaller walk is planned for this Friday, New Year’s Day, and Beatnik’s show, called HFNY, will feature the work of Kelsey Anderson and Brad Starkey-Owens.

Davis and Calmettes moved Beatnik into an old brick building a block off R Street in 2013. It’s been used mostly as an event space, hosting more than 50 weddings a year. A craft fair was there last week and mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg – hoping to tap into the energy of the city’s young voters – held a campaign event in the space earlier in the month.

Moving forward, Davis and Calmettes will focus more on Beatnik’s role as an art space. They will still feature young and emerging artists – as they have the past two years – but will start marketing the space as a gallery to more established talent.

“The goal is to be the premier gallery in Sacramento,” Calmettes said. The space, with its 30-foot ceilings, brick walls and skylights, was the longtime home of the Skinner Howard gallery.

It’s a smart move for Beatnik, given that art is redefining R Street. Davis and Calmettes – former photography classmates at Sacramento State – are about to hire a new gallery manager. And as Second Saturday becomes less of an art event and more an excuse to grab dinner in midtown, R Street has a chance to cement its place in the city’s art scene.

“Our focus will be on the visual arts, not a street party,” Davis said of the R Street art walk.

To make sure R Street remains relevant, artists and entrepreneurs must keep the district authentic. The Warehouse Artist Lofts and its low-income housing for artists ensures there will always be room for young and creative minds in the neighborhood. So far, very few of the new restaurants and businesses in the area are chains.

“There’s no chance a T.G.I. Friday’s is coming into this neighborhood,” Davis said.

More than a dozen bars and restaurants, seven art galleries and nearly 20 shops now operate in the district. Just a few years ago, most of the area was abandoned warehouses and industrial offices.

Much more appears in store in the coming months, including housing, coffee shops and new locally owned restaurants. And the growth has been organic, as homegrown developers and entrepreneurs rehab those old warehouses and architecture firms move down from the suburbs to a once-gritty street.

“We’re not forcing anything,” said Michelle Smira Brattmiller, head of the R Street Partnership business district. Instead, the district is going to keep doing what it’s done best so far, and that’s attract the city’s most creative minds.

In other words, don’t worry – no one is planning to rename the neighborhood “The Arr.”

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