Fujisawa Art Space (FAS) opened inside a commercial facility outside the North Exit of Tsujido Station in 2015. This is the only public art space in Fujisawa City aside from the Fujisawa Shimin Gallery, and in addition to the exhibition room and workshop room, it also includes a residence room where artists can live and work. Even on a nationwide scale, there are few art space with these facilities. We talked to two specialist staff members at the art space, Satoko Sugimoto and Sanae Takegami, about the latent possibilities of the culture center of Fujisawa City.
An Art Space that Appeared in a Town with No Museums
－FAS reportedly used a sister city in the United States for reference.
Sugimoto：When the current mayor, Tsuneo Suzuki, went to observe Fujisawa’s sister city in the U.S., Miami Beach, he visited an arts center, and there was an artist in residence there. Fujisawa City has never had any museums for art and other exhibits, so he felt it would be great to build a space like this where people could interact with young artists. In this way, he decided to build an art facility with a residence room. The exhibition room and the residence production studio are lined up in a row, and I think that’s a special feature you can’t see elsewhere. The open studio, exhibition room, and workshop room provide three different facilities for events.
- Was there a movement to build a modern art facility before this?
Sugimoto：I think the first time Fujisawa City embraced modern art was in 2014. The “Fujisawa City 30-day Art Museum” event is held at the Fujisawa Shimin Gallery every year, and in this year the event introduced pieces by young artists. Up until then, Fujisawa had featured famous deceased artists and architects with a connection to the city, but at this time, an exhibition was developed featuring works by 7 prominent young artists with connections to the city that took inspiration from a work in the city’s collection, “Enoshima no Ukiyo-e.” I think this exhibition was one thing that helped trigger the construction of this new facility.
Kosuke Yoneyama, “Enoshima-zu (2014-nen),” 2014
I’ve lived in Fujisawa since I was little, and there have always been few places in the city for seeing and sharing art. There are some galleries, but no opportunities to see the kinds of large-scale works you can only find in art museums. As a result, everyone was glad to have the opportunity to see installation pieces that filled large spaces and 3-dimensional works at this exhibition.
- How was the location in front of Tsujido Station chosen?
Sugimoto：Within Fujisawa, the Tsujido area is experiencing especially rapid growth right now. Initially, the fact that there were no cultural and art facilities in Tsujido was a factor in the decision, and when you’re building a new art museum or exhibition space that’s a huge project. However, the Tsujido area was experiencing a revival, and I think the developers feel that creating the space inside of the new office buildings would increase the likelihood of success for the project.
- Were there any issues that had to be overcome due to the facility being set up inside an office building?
Sugimoto：When artists are in residence, we see them every day, and we’ve accumulated experience with a variety of residents. Many artists feel that it’s essential for them to be able to display their works in any kind of space, so we haven’t had any particular difficulties with exhibitions.
A Base for Sending Works Out into the World
So Uchiyama, 《to turn back》, 2015
- Regarding exhibition projects and selection of artists, what areas do you emphasize?
Sugimoto：In the last fiscal year, we exhibited the works of a total of 17 artists, all of whom were young and had some kind of connection to Fujisawa. Since this was our first year in operation and we have the goal of supporting and contributing to the growth of young artists, we try to have young artists use our facility as much as possible, providing a place for exchange and opinion sharing. When we researched it, we found that there are a large number of young artists with a connection to Fujisawa, and I think we’d never have been able to see that without this kind of facility. Friends of mine who work in other art facilities have told me that up until now it was difficult to research young artists in Fujisawa and Kanagawa Prefecture as a whole, so it’s good that there’s a place in the Shonan area to discover their talent now.
Local artists don’t stop at FAS, and instead it’s become a hub for them to launch out from. I hope more artists can start here and branch out into the world. Up until now, there was no place like this, so Fujisawa artists often left the city on their own. I have expectations that this space can serve as a harbor for artists to return to after they’ve gone out into the world as well.
Public exhibitions are scheduled to start in this fiscal year, and applications for these are not limited to Fujisawa City residents. As long as they live in Japan, even people from overseas can apply. I feel that the interaction of various different cultures will start happening here, and I’m looking forward to seeing that.
Manufacturing is thriving here in Fujisawa, and there are lots of different corporations. We are currently considering forming a link with them. The public exhibition project will also feature a collaboration with 8hotel, a hotel in Fujisawa. 4 of the selected groups will be awarded an 8hotel prize, and will have the opportunity to redecorate 8hotel rooms as part of the 「8DAYS A WEEK」project. This will serve as a platform for them to create and announce new works as well.
In addition, directly above us on the 7th floor, the opening of Fujisawa Ukiyo-e Museum, which will display items in the city’s possession related to Ukiyo-e and the history of the city’s founding, has been announced for July. We are planning to collaborate with this new facility as well.
Communication between City Residents and Artists
Mariko Sakurai working on a piece
- Regarding the residence room, what kind of response have you gottten so far?
Sugimoto：Most of the people visiting this facility are city residents, but for people who have never experienced an art studio before, entering a space where artists are at work on a piece and watching up close is an incredibly interesting experience. This is some of the feedback we’ve gotten. However, some people also worry that they’re getting in the way and bothering the artists. Although some artists also feel like they need to make conversation if someone comes into the studio, the visitors are also concerned about not bothering the artists. As a result, there are never situations where artists have no time to focus on work and have to talk to visitors constantly, and they end up making more progress than they expected.
- Both groups try to help each other out.
Sugimoto：High school students often come by, and some who are interested in further studies (at art universities) will ask artists directly what they should do. The artists give them excellent advice. More and more people who make their own artwork as a hobby visit the studio space, and they ask questions, too.
- It seems like working in a place with such a clean, white floor might take some getting used to...
Sugimoto：Among artists, there are people who worry about that, and also people who don’t. (LOL) Right now, there are just two artists in residence, so things are quite orderly, but there were 4 in the last group and things were pretty messy.
I’m sure everything was so clean that it was tough to adjust to at first, but the area is getting broken in little by little, and I think that probably is making it easier to use as a studio space. This depends on working style as well, but there are fewer walls than some artists expect, and this can make working on pieces like large paintings difficult. As a facility, I think we need to work on improving these issues that make working on pieces difficult here.
- In the course of operations, are there any special things you do here?
Sugimoto：The spaces aren’t really divided up in any particular way, so when it was packed tight with four people and one of them was doing sculpture and powder is flying around, other artists consulted us about how to isolate that area. In order to keep people from getting out of sync and developing tensions in their relationships with one another, we have everyone meet once every two months now. That system was started six months ago.
Satomi Uchida at work on a piece
Seaside Scenery that Sticks in your Mind
Shumpei Minagawa, “Hyoryu Suru Ie,” 2016
- Are there any works that were created precisely because this space exists?
Sugimoto：“Mitsukeru Koto / Mata Mitsukeru Koto” from the last exhibition was created by Shumpei Minagawa as he went back and forth between his residence in Nikko and his family home here in Fujisawa, and for his “Hyoryu Suru Ie” piece, he brought scrap wood materials from Nikko and fitted them together here. According to him, he was recreating the scenery of the kind of shack he often saw in Tsujido when he was growing up here as a young child. He said, “This kind of housing may seem rare to people just moving to Tsujido recently, but for me, it’s nostalgic Fujisawa scenery.”
Also, Naoya Ishikawa lives in Enoshima, and used a familiar item as a motif. His workshop was titled, “An ordinary stone becomes a precious gem!?” At this workshop, he had participants polish stones he’d picked up in Enoshima and pieces of rock from his sculpture work. At the exhibition for works completed during his residency, one display compared ocean stones polished by the forces of nature with stones polished by workshop participants.
Satomi Uchida lives in Yokosuka, but she had a strong awareness of elements of the environment here such as the views of Mt. Fuji and the closeness of the beach and ocean during her residence, and said she put those influences into her work.
Thinking about that sort of thing, perhaps all the artists in residence have an awareness of the ocean scenery that influences them. Also, I’ve heard from some of the other residents that exchanging opinions with other artists made them realize things for the first time, and that led to the creation of new pieces.
Stillness Drifting in Calm, Blue Space
Yuko Matsuzawa, “Hakudo,” 2016
- What kind of planning went into the current exhibition project, “The Scenery Here -From 4 Small Rooms-”?
Takegami：The theme of “scenery” popped into my head first, and then I decided to apply it to a variety of different genres and chose two artists working in flat mediums, one sculptor, and one installation artist. Because the last exhibition used the residence room and it was the start of a new fiscal year, the pieces weren’t created here. However, all of the artists are passionate and ambitious people, and some of them decided personally to make new works for this exhibition, so some of the pieces were created just for us. The pieces use a variety of materials such as the subject matter and indigo colors of Japanese paintings, ceramics, and the veins of leaves.
It’s just a coincidence that the overall tone of the exhibition ended up being a bluish shade, but that brought a unity to it. The finished pieces create a space with a calm and quiet atmosphere throughout that I never imagined when I was planning it. I think all the visitors have their own unique aesthetic sense, and I hope people will experience the pieces in a variety of different ways.
We’re preparing a monthly event program for this fiscal year, and as a related event for the project exhibition, a performance will be held in the exhibition venue in May. This event is the first of its kind, and we hope that people with an interest in music and dance will come and learn about our facility. Moving forward, we plan to hold workshops, lectures, and symposium events on a monthly basis separate from and in addition to these events related to the exhibitions.
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