In Kelley Wilks' live-in studio, six artists huddle around a table. Most of them are from the Second Street Art Collective, of which Wilks is a founding member. They have come to enlighten and possibly recruit two prospective members, but there is no sure sell. Space and resources are discussed, benefits are promoted, a tour is planned. The prospective members don't make a decision right away, but Wilks is optimistic regardless.

The Second Street Studios complex (which you may know best via Back Road Pizza) is a labyrinth of offices and live-in artist spaces jam-packed together. It describes itself as a community of artists, but also hosts bakers, chocolatiers and pilates studios. Some art studios have a logo taped to the window showing membership in Second Street Art Collective, or 2AC, as they acronymize themselves. Some are painters, some are clay artists, some are sculptors, others are a mix of disciplines. They have no central building or gallery space, instead choosing to meet up at the studios of whomever wishes to host. Some studios have little galleries of their own but, as a collective, each member fills a specific role. One handles the website, another deals with finance, another fulfills graphic design needs; the list goes on.

Many of 2AC's 16 members are veteran professionals, having made a living from art for quite some time. Some are new to Santa Fe. And unlike some other art collectives, they are fully independent of one another, working on their own pieces and selling them in a variety of galleries and spaces.

"It's been growing at a surprising rate," says Wendy Foster, a co-founder and self-described "bossiest" of the group. She adds that, by joining together, member artists can help expand each other's audience. "You'll go to Kelley's studio, and she'll send you to Linda [Storm]'s, and so on," Foster says.

"We started it because we had a desire for community," Wilks explains. "In a tighter group, it's easier to get motivated. As artists, we tend to get into our niche too much. This gets us out."

Rather than buying into the competitive nature of the art world, 2AC's members are more like friendly neighbors, borrowing each other's supplies and trading pieces of advice on things like methodology, studio practice, even doing taxes. At one point during the meeting, Foster offers to lend another member her etch press, and the artist gladly accepts. It's this level of camaraderie that allows the members to prepare for 2AC's monthly open studios, to which the public is invited—another selling point for the prospective members.

"The second Friday of every month, we open our studios," Fosters tells the newcomers. "It's a punch to get people into the area. We've made some headway, and I've gathered at least 15 people into my studio."

During the open studios, visitors get a map of the studios participating that month, where they can pop in and observe the artist's personal work space, ask questions and buy artwork.

"The best thing about it is that people can see the art in the artist's studio," co-founder Linda Storm tells SFR. "They can talk to the artist about their work, hear their personal story—which is necessary, because all art is personal—and they can purchase directly from the artist. There is no middle man."

Currently, 2AC has no solid plans to expand its event repertoire beyond the open studios, but that is likely to change; changes to the monthly open studios and entirely new events are on members' minds. As the tour becomes more popular and the collective becomes bigger, more elements of the ever-growing Triangle District neighborhood are likely to be incorporated, too (even just up and down Second Street and San Mateo, there are dozens more businesses and services that could be be mined for participation). The open studios stand a chance to become an important touchstone for artists and practitioners living and working in the neighborhood, and represent a robust showing of everything the community has to offer.

Second Street Arts Collective Open Studios
5-8 pm Friday Nov. 9. Free.
Second Street Studios,
1807 Second St.,