Creativity where it happens

Observe more than 250 artists in their element through Sac Open Studios

Raffa Chavez at his art studio/gym, The Old Pugilist.

Raffa Chavez at his art studio/gym, The Old Pugilist.

Photo by Mozes Zarate

Check Out Verge Center for the Arts’ Sac Open Studios Saturday, Sept. 14, Sunday, Sept. 15 and Sept. 21 and 22. No cover. For a tour guide, visit

When you arrive, you might think you’re in the wrong place. Next door to an auto shop is a nondescript unit with its door flung wide open. Step inside, and there’s a boxing ring with parked vintage cars for an audience.

You didn't read the address wrong. It is a retired gym, but it's also Raffa Chavez's Old Pugilist Studio—his man cave, his place of many passions and the space where he rediscovers his creativity. Looking around is like observing the multimedia artist's head-space. Mexican-American emblems, chalk phrases centered on the art of combat and a tequila bar make this a little more interesting than your average art gallery.

“My wife asked me, ‘What makes you happiest?'” said Chavez. “I said, ‘Being totally committed to art.' So between family, my day job and coming to this place, I'm the happiest. … I get to come here, I have buddies who come in and spar … and when everybody's gone, I sit here and work on the next piece.”

For the next two weekends, Chavez will invite the public to see his paintings, photography and other works as part of the 14th annual Sac Open Studios, put on by Verge Center for the Arts. On Sept. 14-15 and again Sept. 21-22, the event will open doors to more than 250 artist studios in the region, giving art lovers a chance to view and purchase pieces directly from the artist, learn more about their creative process and touch and feel their inspirations.

It's also a valuable opportunity for Sacramento artists, including many who aren't normally part of the gallery circuit.

“Galleries want you to come up with 30 pieces of similar work,” Chavez told SN&R. “I'm all over the place, so it gets hard for galleries to ask, ‘What are you showing?”

It's difficult to check out all of the featured artists, and so for the second year, Chavez and seven others are participating in Tour The Eight, a tour-within-a-tour that showcases talent in Land Park and Curtis Park. The eight-studio loop is bike-friendly and walkable, and you can qualify for raffle prizes.

The art prices range from affordable to $7,000 or more, and the artists vary stylistically.

Libby Harmor, who will show her work at landscape-floral artist Ruth Holton-Hodson's home studio on Vallejo Way, weaves art from shredded dollar bills. Maggie Jimenez sculpts colorful pottery and paints at her home studio. Elaine Bowers, whose work has been displayed at Sacramento International Airport, creates hyper-detailed watercolors of Delta landscapes after she photographs the scenery while flying in vintage planes.

For Bowers, a full-time artist who spends hours alone in her backyard studio, having company is welcome. But as an art teacher and former art therapist, sharing the value of art is the best part.

“I really like meeting the people who come in here,” Bowers said. “Most people don't know how you get from a blank page to a finished product. … The reason I do it is just to help people better understand art and not be afraid of it, and help them enjoy doing it.”