From May 11-14, 2012, scores of artists in the Belleville district of Paris opened their studio doors to the public as part of an open-house event that takes place every spring in the city of light. Known locally as the Portes Ouvertes -Ateliers d'Artistes de Belleville (Belleville Artists' Studios Open House), the four-day event draws Parisians from all over town to get an inside look at the way local artists live and work, inevitably leading to interesting and constructive conversations and exchanges. Artists working in mediums from painting to woodworking, photography, video or performance art participate in the Open House. It's also a way to see the interiors of some of the city's more interesting buildings-- in cosmopolitan and traditionally working-class Belleville, many of the artists' studios and homes have been converted from former industrial spaces.
This year's theme was "Cash-Cache," a French play on words that alludes to both France's current political focus on the economy with the solidarity practiced among the artists of Belleville. With more than 140 open studios to explore, activities for children, musical performances, and films, the resulting friendly atmosphere that spilled onto the streets produced its own form of art.
Map in Hand: The Visit BeginsOn a wonderfully sunny Saturday afternoon, I started my journey at CFDT, a gallery that also served as one of the three information points for the four-day event. Arriving there, I was greeted with a wall of hand-painted "petits originaux" (small originals). Each participating artist had made one for the event, and for only €45 each, I wasn't surprised that many had already been purchased. The information area also offered a collage of one-sheets featuring each of the artists, an example of their work, and their corresponding studio number. It was here that I equipped myself with a pocket map. I was ready to start exploring...
Pictured here: Visitors at the 2012 Belleville artists' Open House event explore one of the many spaces open in the area for the occasion.