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ATA © Plateaueatplau/Wikipedia
ATA © Plateaueatplau/Wikipedia
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Artists' Television Access: Nurturing Experimental Art In SF

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 12 July 2017
San Francisco is home to a variety of organizations that promote a thriving arts culture, but perhaps there is none so unique or experimental as the Artists’ Television Access. Read on to get to know this non-profit art gallery/screening venue and the creativity it nurtures.

Couple of peculiar post-human toxic waste beings digging away.

A photo posted by Derb. (@a_mandolin_) on

Located in San Francisco’s Mission District at the intersection of Valencia and 21st Street, Artists’ Television Access prides itself on cultivating ‘culturally-aware underground media and experimental art.’ ATA hosts works by independent and experimental artists, including screenings, exhibitions, performances, workshops and events. Works are showcased in ATA’s theater and gallery spaces, as well as in an online magazine and a public-access cable show called The Other Cinema, hosted by filmmaker Craig Baldwin. The organization is run by a group of artists themselves, with a passion for ‘fostering a supportive community for the exhibition of innovative art and the exchange of non-conformist ideas.’

ATA has been in the works since the early 1980s when artists John Martin and Marshall Weber established a performance art space, gallery and screening venue known as the Martin/Weber Gallery on Eighth Street in the SoMa neighborhood. According to Lex Lonehood, the space was filled with ‘wild performance art, drugs and punk rock…it was a buoyant mix of a drug den bachelor pad, socially conscious editing suite and gutsy exhibition space that cut a unique swath into the alternative art scene.’ While Martin and Weber are frequently cited as the key forces behind the beginnings of ATA, other artists frequently associated with the organization’s early years include Craig Baldwin, Lise Swenson, Phil Patiris, Eva König, Rigo 23, Fred Rinne, Scott Williams and Dale Hoyt.

Valencia St #windowdisplay #valenciastreetart #artiststelevisionaccess #valenciastreet

A video posted by @kristina_arellano on

The venture was originally tied to a nearby video production facility that provided affordable production means to video artists. A commercial operation at the time, Martin and Weber soon began the work to convert the organization into a non-profit with the mission to provide a place where the public could produce video content. The content was to be broadcasted on Artists’ Television, the local cable program run by ATA at the time. After officially launching the show in 1984, ATA received non-profit status in 1985. After a fire on Halloween of 1986, the organization relocated temporarily to a warehouse next to Clarion Alley in the Mission before moving permanently to its current location on Valencia in 1987. For more insider perspectives on ATA, check out this short film.

Today, locals can visit the ATA gallery to enjoy a variety of exhibits and events. Regular events include OpenScreening, a monthly event in which anyone can submit or watch short films, and the GAZE Film Series, which is dedicated to screening exclusively independent films made by women. Check out the ATA calendar to see what events are coming up soon. Screening artists can submit their works to be showcased at ATA by applying here.