At the end of the street is a quiet, litter-strewn corner. On that corner is a series of rusty buildings. In one of those buildings is a cute, secluded gallery that many a realtor would call “cozy.” And last Saturday this gallery was occupied by APAture’s Handmade Fair.
The non-profit Kearny Street Workshop began in Chinatown in 1972, and per their site is “the oldest multidisciplinary Asian Pacific American (APA) arts organization in the United States.” KSW’s annual arts festival, APAture, is now in its 9th year. It’s not the first time KSW has combined visual art with a marketplace, but it is the first time they’ve had a DIY craft category (Loretta Nguyen, of fiftyseven-thirtythree.)
The clientele on Saturday was mostly — though not all — Asian American, and the art and merchandise were just about as diverse. For sale: t-shirts, art prints, greeting cards, comic books, graphic novels, bags, snacks, jewelry. For viewing (and experiencing): sculpture, paintings, an installation of photocopied Asian food products of various degrees of authenticity, even a karaoke machine with a beaded curtain. Although the gallery was a bit stuffy from both body heat and that annoying rogue heat wave, patrons were in good spirits.
APAture festival coordinator Lisa Leong and her mom Debbie were vending for the first time, manning the Petit Crochet Ami table, which featured amigurumi (crocheted plushies). Debbie usually reserved the plushies as gifts for family and friends, but here, 50% of the proceeds went to APAture. Their table also featured pink, star-shaped (delicious! free!) cookies — couple that with cacti, turtles and wormy apples and it was almost a 3-D Cute Overload experience.
“It’s really cool to see so many people pack the gallery,” said Lisa Leong, who called the space a “hidden gem” and added that despite the heat and venue being relatively out of the way, the reception had been quite positive. “Everyone has been super nice,” she said.
In a bit of a coup, the Bay Area-centric art more heavily represented the East Bay than San Francisco, despite the fair’s venue. Maybe it’s because I live in the East Bay or that I root for the underdog, but it was sort of heartwarming. And I went home with the most awesome Charley and Humphrey shirt, made by Motenai. I had to explain it to my Michigander roommate, but it’ll hopefully bring surprised, nostalgic grins to my fellow ’80s-reared Bay Areans.