Art? No Sweat 

At Berkeley's Art Gym, it's your creativity that gets a workout

A clever commercial gimmick is a work of art. In the case of the Art Gym in Berkeley -- the catchily-named rent-a-studio for artists with no work space at home -- a clever commercial gimmick that relates to actual works of art raises the proposition to poetic proportions.

The storefront in the middle of the chichi 4th Street shopping district is just the sort of place where you'd want to spend some time after hitting the real gym -- if your taste runs to creating watercolors or sculpture. The concept behind the Art Gym (1717-D 4th St., Berkeley, 1-800-743-8446 or www.theartgym.com) is that busy professionals -- or well-heeled bohemians -- would be just as willing to plunk down $150 a month ($125 for students) on a comfortable place to paint that still life as they would be to pay for an athletic workout, economic slowdown notwithstanding. Membership buys unlimited access to the facility, use of easels and worktables, plus a quarterly newsletter; storage lockers are also available. Says Art Gym owner Marjory Hawkins: "There's such a void for art space in the East Bay. People don't have $300 to $400 to spend on it." So are starving artists beating down the doors? "It's not happening as fast as we'd like," admits Hawkins, "but we're averaging one new member a day from the Berkeley-Oakland area."

Hawkins is obviously proud of the Art Gym's roster of tenants. "We have stained-glass makers, illustrators, painters, quiltmakers, even a brother-sister team of painters who've always wanted to paint together. They collaborate and also work separately." On Saturday, April 27, many of the above will take part in the first "Open Gym" exhibit of members' works. Artists such as Lavirille Aber, Andre Amoiur, Brett Crawford, Paul Lorenz, Mark Popple, Juliette Majot, and Elizabeth Taylor (!) will show their work from 5 to 9 p.m. that day, and the public is invited. Phone 510-527-0300 for more info.

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