Somerville Open Studios was born in the winter of 1999 when two Somerville artists, Jonathan Derry and Laura Fayer, decided that there was a need for a city wide open studio event that could provide a venue for artists working out of their homes and small studio buildings, as well as those in larger and established buildings, to exhibit their work to the public. After placing a call to artists throughout the city, an inaugural planning committee was formed to organize the first annual Somerville Open Studios to take place during the first weekend of May that year. SOS 1999 featured just over 80 artists exhibiting at 25 sites throughout the city. In the sixteen years since, SOS has grown to become one of the largest events of its kind in the country with over 400 participating artists displaying their work every spring.
In 2001 we introduced the first SOS online artist directory to allow visitors to better plan their tour by previewing artist work online. In 2002 the first Artist’s Choice exhibit was held at the Somerville Museum to give visitors a further opportunity to see a wide selection of Somerville artists’ work in a single venue. In 2004 Somerville Open Studios became a Massachusetts non-profit organization established for the purpose of providing access to artists and exposing the public to the wide variety of art-making activities taking place in the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.
The Volunteers that make SOS happen got a special group show dedicated to their work, starting in SOS of 2011. In SOS of 2012 a group of Somerville clothing designers and creators approached SOS to launch the first SOS runway Fashion Show. Likewise Somerville Community Access Television coordinated an SOS Film Festival to run in conjunction with SOS. Each of these initiatives have brought more attention to the deep and diverse arts community that thrives in the City of Somerville.
In 2012, SOS also for the first time expanded to three days, with some artists opting to open their studios for three hours on Friday evening. Starting in 2013, SOS has presented a Kids’ Art Show in the Armory Cafe. While experiencing steady growth, we have striven to keep the event inclusive and diverse. In this spirit, we welcome artists who are exhibiting for the first time to show next to established professionals. We work hard to make a place for artists working out of their home studios as well as those who are part of large studio buildings. While doing this we continue to look for new ways to build community and make connections between visual artists and the people of Somerville.