on the Right Wavelength
Anyone who says the crowds at Art Murmur aren’t there for the art hasn’t been to FM Gallery, founded by Ofra Fisher, Peter St. Lawrence, Michael Steffen, and Joe Kowalczyk. St. Lawrence says of their launch in May 2010, “We hadn’t advertised at all. We just rolled the gate up.” An hour before closing they stopped counting at 3,000 visitors.
They credit the generosity and vision of their landlord for taking a chance on them and transforming the block. “A lot of people don’t realize that on this end of 25th Street, none of this would have been possible without Matt Iglehart,” Steffen says.
St. Lawrence agrees. “He and his wife got inspired, and they really curated the block,” he says. “He preserved the buildings, and he highlighted the culture of the neighborhood that he thought was one of the most valuable things happening in Oakland.”
FM is now home to 10 artists, including the four founder/directors. “There are so many different disciplines and styles represented that there’s something for everyone to enjoy,” St. Lawrence says, and on the event’s first Friday evenings, the line inches through this unique space to glimpse the art and the studios in which they were crafted. The directors also take turns curating a monthly exhibit of a visiting artist on the white walls of the venue’s entrance.
Much of the work has a touch of the macabre, including Kowalczyk’s demons exorcized from his soul and transmuted into clay or pencil, and St. Lawrence’s gothic marionettes and bell jar specimens. Studio artist Jessica Jenkins’ devil’s claw figurines, and monsters sculpted by Josh Margolis from sketches submitted by visitors to the studio add to the creepiness, all infused with lots of humor, and zero pretentiousness. As St. Lawrence says, “The right people say, ‘It’s so dark. I love it!’ ”
FM Gallery is open Saturdays 1–5 p.m. every first Friday of the month, 6–10 p.m. during Oakland Art Murmur, and by appointment. 483 25th St., www.fmoakland.com.