RICHMOND -- Steve Hurst, who makes and sells art clocks in Point Richmond, is one of six artists who will be participating in the East Bay's largest artists' open studios event next month from an art space shared with a self-storage facility.

The gallery, Bridge Art Space, represents the largest participating site in West Contra Costa for Pro Arts Open Studios, where artists will throw open their doors to the public on the first two weekends in June.

The Bay Area version of the open studios concept began in San Francisco. The East Bay version originated about 30 years ago after more artists began flocking to Oakland to take advantage of cheaper studio space.

The Oakland-based umbrella agency, Pro Arts, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, said Amy Spencer, Pro Arts' curator.

The studios are in art galleries and private homes where the artists will be hosting visitors from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 7 and 8 and 14 and 15. A complete guide to the event, including locations of homes and galleries and artists' websites, as well as a sample snapshot of each artist's work, is available on the Pro Arts website, www.proartsgallery.org.

Simultaneously, about 400 of the artists participating in Open Studios will have one of their pieces on display in the Pro Arts Gallery at 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.

Spencer said artists get involved for a variety of reasons, including "making their work visible, selling their work, developing new audiences and meeting their neighbors." But they naturally love the process of creation.

Pro Arts Open Studios is Oakland- and Berkeley-centric, with 343 artists participating from those two communities. But the concept, as well as the opportunity, is catching on in West Contra Costa, Spencer said.

"We really want more Contra Costa artists to participate," she said. "They are kind of the outliers."

Besides the six artists at Bridge Art Space, three other artists in Richmond, two in El Cerrito, two in El Sobrante and one each in Pinole and Kensington will be displaying their work out of their homes.

Kensington artist Barbara Hendrickson specializes in large, brightly colored paintings, mostly of women.

She said Open Studios gives her the opportunity to show and perhaps sell some of her work to make room for more paintings.

"I live in a large, loft-like house where sunlight bounces off the colors, but I'm running out of room," said Hendrickson, who doubles as a real estate agent. "I thought, 'I'll just do Open Studios and sit here and see who comes.'"

El Cerrito painter Alix Mitgang, who does abstract paintings in acrylics, said she participated in Open Studios for the first time last year.

Mitgang, who is available at her home by appointment, says she derives the moods that the paintings convey from her experiences as a political campaign worker and working for a homeless shelter.

"I like to stand back and look at the canvas while I'm painting and see things emerge," she said. "The experiences are in my head, and they come out into my work."

Hurst said the idea of making art clocks hit him when he was unable to find a clock from anyone other than a traditional manufacturer.

He said he starts with the movements and creates the clock designs from recycled items, such as jewelry, furniture parts, and car radio speakers.

"All the stuff that I use would just go into the landfill," Hurst said. "I turn around and there is the clock idea."

Daud Abdullah, who creates mosaics from materials such as bicycles and trash cans, will also be displaying at Bridge Art Space during open studios, along with Adam Lam, a craft furniture maker, and John Tyler, who does artistic woodworking on a lathe.

Although the Richmond Arts Center has been an established focal point for West Contra Costa artists since it was founded in the 1930s, Hurst said Bridge Art Space, which he manages, is working to get a foothold at 23 Maine Ave. near the Knox Freeway (Interstate 580).

"It is difficult to get people out this way," said Hurst, in describing the neighborhood. "But this is what happens when artists come en masse to an area, and it starts on the way up."

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