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Meet Ira Watkins, new artist in residence at the Hunters Point Shipyard

September 2, 2017

by Marti McKee

Shipyard Trust for the Arts (STAR) is excited to announce the selection of our 2017-2018 Artist in Residence at the Hunters Point Shipyard: Ira Watkins

Ira Watkins, new artist in residence at the Hunters Point Shipyard, creates a beautiful work of art.

Ira Watkins is a self-taught artist who has shown an amazing devotion to his passion. He has been painting for almost 30 years. Even a period of homelessness did not disrupt his art practice. During that time, he lived and painted in his van in the Tenderloin.

He now lives in the Dr. George Davis Senior Center in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. Mr. Watkins is 73 and has been a Bay Area resident for many years after migrating from Waco, Texas.

A 2015 New York Times piece opened with Mr. Watkins’ story as one of the “hidden gems” of the Tenderloin recognized by the Wildflowers Institute. Mr. Watkins ultimately found stable housing.

Shipyard Trust for the Arts (STAR) is excited to announce the selection of our 2017-2018 Artist in Residence at the Hunters Point Shipyard: Ira Watkins

When he moved into the Senior Center he requested they remove all the furniture except the bed. He needed room for his easel, painting table, materials and storage of his paintings. We are so pleased to have him as a member of the Shipyard Community.

Mr. Watkins makes a difference. Cathy Davis, executive director of Bayview Senior Services, says: “We are very appreciative of the contribution Mr. Watkins has made to the Dr. George Davis Senior Center sharing his artistic talents as a class teacher, pool player and neighbor in our residence. He always wants to give back and is a joy to be around.”

His past gallery and museum exhibitions include the New Image Art Gallery and at the John Natsoulas Gallery. In April of this year, Mr. Watkins showed his work at Laughing Monk Brewing in the Bayview in an exhibit organized by a local arts non-profit, Imprint City.

Asked about his selection as Artist in Residence, Mr. Watkins responded, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in San Francisco. A free studio in this real estate market, you can’t beat that. And it has great light for painting.”

As he started his term as Shipyard Artist in Residence, he was featured in a show at the Tenderloin Museum, “Ira Watkins: From Waco to San Francisco,” and another at Civic Center Hospitality House on Turk Street.

The Artist in Residence Program was one of the earliest initiatives undertaken by STAR after its formation in 1995. Building a strong bridge between STAR and the Bayview Hunters Point Community is the core goal.

In its 14th year, the program has provided a studio to an artist of merit from the nearby community. The grant gives the recipient the opportunity to have a full-time studio at the Shipyard, allowing the artist to concentrate on creative work and be part of the nation’s largest community of fine arts professionals. STAR also pays a stipend and Open Studios Fees. The Point, the building management company, also supports this program. This is an 18-month residency.

Mr. Watkins will be exhibiting in his studio at the Shipyard during Fall Open Studios on the weekend of Oct. 14 and 15, 2017.

Asked about his selection as Artist in Residence, Mr. Watkins responded, “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me in San Francisco. A free studio in this real estate market, you can’t beat that. And it has great light for painting.”

Mr. Watkins will be exhibiting in his studio at the Shipyard during Fall Open Studios on the weekend of Oct. 14 and 15, 2017.

For more information about STAR’s Artist in Residence Program and previous artists, please visit www.shipyardtrust.org. Marti McKee, executive director of the Shipyard Trust for the Arts (STAR), can be reached at info@shipyardtrust.org. STAR is a California 501c3 nonprofit corporation dedicated to conserving affordable art studios, supporting Bayview Hunters Point community art programs, and creating educational and exhibition opportunities.

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