Howard McCalebb is back in California after spending three months in Berlin starting the renovations on his new sculpture studio and art gallery. The Oroville resident moved to California two years ago to be closer to his family. Prior to his move west, he spent 28 years in the Big Apple as an artist and teacher. Longing for the city and a vibrant art scene, the 61-year-old McCalebb was drawn to Berlin both because it’s the center for the art culture in Europe and its history makes the town affordable for some of the youngest and brightest who haven’t yet made Warhol bucks.
Tell me about your studio in Berlin.
This place is in a small factory and so part of it is a sculpture studio; part is an art gallery; and another part is a guest studio for visiting artists from outside of Berlin
What is your connection to Berlin?
I have friends all over Europe in the artist community
How long have you been an artist?
I got my master’s in fine arts from Cornell in 1972 and I’ve been practicing and teaching ever since.
What kind of work do you do?
Large pieces are fabricated metal, usually steel or aluminum. Small pieces are usually wood. I don’t have anything in Chico. I just moved from New York City to Northern California. I’m just establishing myself.
Describe the Berlin art scene.
It’s sort of like New York was in the early ‘80s. There is a lot of affordable working space. Many young artists can’t afford working space in New York unless they’re rich.
How often do you travel back and forth?
I just came back at the beginning of May. I’ll be here for a couple months and then go back. I spent 28 years in New York and I didn’t get see the younger people in my family grow up. That’s why I’m back here on the West Coast.
San Francisco and Los Angeles have art scenes, and they are a little closer than Berlin.
I had a gallery in San Francisco. The Northern California art scene is small and spread out while the art scene in Berlin is very concentrated. They have thousands of artists and activities. You don’t need a car either; they have various art districts that you can walk from gallery to gallery.
What do you think of the Chico art scene?
People are pretty active, I just haven’t been able to become apart of it. But there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for the work that goes on.
You said a lot of young artists are attracted to Berlin, which used to be in East Germany. How does the history of the city influence the art?
It’s the cost of living that attracts people there. Berlin isn’t like Munich or Hamburg, which were in West Germany and cost a lot more to live in. They’re doing a lot of renovations in Berlin, but it will be a few years until it’s a fancy city.