Gallery Director Lauren Ryan on the Lasting Impact of the Headlands Center for the Arts

Since 1982, the Headlands Center for the Arts has been home to a unique range of programs that support artists and their practices. Boasting countless notable alumni like Julie Mehretu and Hank Willis Thomas, the center is composed of artist-rehabilitated, former military barracks nestled in the Marin Headlands. In anticipation of the organization’s annual benefit event and auction, we spoke with Lauren Ryan, Director of San Francisco’s Anthony Meier Fine Arts, about Headlands’ history, an upcoming project at the center, auction highlights, and more.  

  • Photo credit: Andria Lo

Artsy: How did you become involved with the Headlands Center for the Arts?

Lauren Ryan: Visiting Headlands for an Open Studio weekend was an early stop when I first moved to San Francisco from New York in 2013. It was wonderful to see this world-class artist residency program located in the middle of a National Park first hand. The high caliber of participating artists that I encountered that weekend, immersed in the stunning natural beauty, led me to want to get involved.

More recently, I’ve become involved with helping Headlands put together a selection of artworks for their annual Benefit Art Auction, one of the Bay area’s most beloved arts happenings. The auction committee works hard to put together an interesting mix of emerging talent, established artists, and Headlands alumni each year.

  • Photo credit: Andria Lo.

A: Can you highlight some of your favorite pieces in the auction?

LR: The artists featured in the annual Benefit Art Auction are representative of those that Headlands aims to support through their programs – artists who test the boundaries of their practice while investigating challenging questions with their work.

To that end, one of the stand-out works in the auction is Ruth Asawa's Untitled (PF.622, Chrysanthemums)—an exceptional drawing by a seminal artist who has great personal history with San Francisco. While best known for her sculptures, Asawa also made a daily practice of drawing, and this particular work provides an intimate look at her prowess of line and form.

Marsha Cottrell’s Untitled embraces the innovative spirit that the Bay Area fosters so well. Cottrell harnesses a laser printer as one would a paint brush, running mulberry paper through the printer multiple times to create unique abstractions images—seamlessly integrating the handmade and technology into a new language of abstraction.

LR (cont.): Headlands alums Brad Kahlhamer and Alicia McCarthy each have wonderful works in the auction. I love how lyrical and painterly Kahlhamer’s work is—hovering somewhere between a portrait and landscape. McCarthy is a member of The Mission School—a movement that arose in San Francisco in the 1990s and her work often recalls the intricate patterns of démodé textiles.

Finally, Blaise Rosenthal’s Lion, is a personal favorite—it has the meditative spirit of an Agnes Martin painting and I love how he treats the surface of this work.

A: Can you describe how the Headlands Center has impacted the arts community of San Francisco?

LR: Over 1,400 artists worldwide have been directly supported though Headlands' programs since its inception 35 years ago, so its reach really extends well beyond the Bay Area. But here at home, their residency program brings a constant infusion of talent to the area and the Headlands’ excellent programming fosters community engagement in so many areas including visual arts, food, music, and nature.

  • Photo credit: Andria Lo

A: Many of your gallery's artists are included in the benefit auction, how has their work benefited from the Headlands Center or similar residency programs?

LR: Providing artists time to think and space to work in an environment that fosters creativity is at the forefront of Headlands' mission. The research, sharing of ideas, and work created by an artist during their time at Headlands can greatly impact their development. Maybe most importantly, the community created by the residency program lives far beyond each artist's time on the Headlands campus.

A: What are some upcoming initiatives at Headlands that you are excited about?

LR: Right now, Headlands is completing construction for a new outdoor space called The Commons, which will be opening up to the public at the end of the summer. I'm looking forward to spending time in the new space, and seeing the three permanent artworks that were commissioned to be included in the design. I'm sure The Commons will be a natural extension of Headlands' welcoming atmosphere for artists and visitors, and to lucky passersby who stumble upon it while they are out hiking in the park.

  • Photo credit: Andria Lo.

A: Why is it an important time to support non-profits?

LR: It’s a critical time to support non-profits, particularly those in the arts. My philosophy is if you believe in the mission then try to find a way to support, either by volunteering, donating or spreading the word. The Headlands is about supporting artists in the development of new work and ideas, a cause I believe in deeply. And the Headlands’ Benefit Art Auction is a wonderful way to support them in this endeavor as it not only helps the organization itself but is also a step in fulfilling their mission to support artists as they offer participating artists up to a 50% commission for artworks sold at the benefit.

Explore Headlands Center for the Arts: Benefit Auction 2017 and bid on more than 80 artworks to support their mission, artists, and, public programs. Preliminary online bidding closes on June 7th, at 12:00am PT. For any direct inquiries, you may reach out to specialist@artsymail.com.

Share article