Kottie Paloma is a Berlin-based artist www.kottiepaloma.com who contacted me on social media about one of my articles.  In the meantime, I wanted to find out more about a new venture he has started called, "Studio Visit Berlin." It’s a fantastic project http://studiovisitberlin.tumblr.com/. Here’s our chat about it...

MICHAEL:  Hello Kottie.  Okay, what is Studio Visit Berlin?

KOTTIE: I got the idea for Studio Visit Berlin when one of my California collectors was here last winter. He usually comes to Berlin two to three times a year. Over dinner, we were discussing his idea of creating a California/Berlin collectors association. He buys a lot of art from Berlin artists and was telling me that his California friends were trying to get into the Berlin art buying scene. He was (or still is) trying to create this exchange between Berlin and California collectors.

MICHAEL: That sounds interesting ... collectors working together.

KOTTIE: He was trying to go through official means and get the support of various institutions to throw their weight behind his idea. There’s interest in his project, though I can't give you all the details because it's still a developing project for him. Then, me needing a second job, I work at a bar called “Das Gift” two to four nights a week. However, it’s sometimes just not enough money since I have both a house and a studio rent to pay.

MICHAEL: Bummer.

KOTTIE: So I applied to be office manager of a tour guide company. Well suffice to say, the woman in charge, didn't like me for the office manager job, but instead asked me to organize my own arts-based tour for her. I had accepted the challenge. I started to build up a blog for her, but she moved too slow for me and never responded to my email or phone calls. So, I decided, why build this for her? Why give her all of my contacts? I'll just do this myself. I’m savvy enough and a great host!

MICHAEL: Very cool.  In America, we call that being an entrepreneur.

KOTTIE: First I took a survey. Since I work at a bar that caters to artists, I was able to meet new artists almost nightly there and get their opinions about my studio visit project. Every single artist I mentioned this to overwhelmingly said yes, this is something they would participate in. So I started from there. I launched the Tumblr page as well as the Studio Visit Berlin FB page. It's all growing very fast now. I’m signing up new artists every other day as participants. We have our first official tour taking place on Saturday June 21st, 2014. The tour sold out very quickly with two emerging collectors from New York and others from Berlin. It's also a press day, so all bloggers and journalists are invited to come along as well.

MICHAEL: Very cool.  So how will the tour work?

KOTTIE: The focus of this tour day is the district of Nuekolln and we will visit 15 artists in total. We will end the tour in my studio building where eight other artists work and pop a couple of bottles of champagne. I have the support of the local business community and my California collector is promoting it among his art community in the United States as well. So, there’s a lot of support happening!

MICHAEL: Nice! What makes this project so important to you?

KOTTIE: I believe this is an important project for many reasons. First of all, the standard gallery scene isn't for everyone, artists included. So there’s an enormous amount of artists who never get seen, as well as people who never get introduced to art. Many of the artists I am working with already have galleries where they get exposure, but still want to be accessible to art lovers. Some of the artists I am working with don't get to show their work so often, so this is a chance for them to display their art and get to talk about it.

Some people want to start collecting art, but don't know where to begin. Some of the artists only have galleries in other cities, so no one in Berlin really ever gets to view their art in person unless they happen to be in whatever city their art is showing or by going to their studio. Many people are only looking at art on the internet, so this is a chance for them to see the works in person in a fun and personal format. The in-person viewing of a work of art really changes the experience. Something we have gotten away from since the internet came around, real life experience!

MICHAEL: Fantastic.  I love that!

KOTTIE: I wish that a project like this had existed in the late ‘90s in San Francisco (or maybe it did, I'm not sure) when I was just a kid starting out as a painter. I would have rather gone on tours like this than to art school. So this tour is also very much for students. Art students in any practice of art would hopefully like this project. Also for students who just finished high school and are considering if they should go to some kind of art school as well. They can learn the pros and cons of going to art school. Most of the artists participating in this project went to art school, but some did not. I am also trying to include various kinds of designers on the next tours. I love design work, especially industrial design.

MICHAEL: Dude, so do I.  Love it!

KOTTIE: My wife is an interior designer. She makes pillows and we just started collaborating on a series of bed sheets and shower curtains together. In the future, she will work with other artists on home decor for the 21st century home. In Berlin, there are many, many designers from fashion to home decor to industrial design. So I want to include these people and their studios too.

MICHAEL: And so, what are your hopes for this project?

KOTTIE: In all honesty, I'm not sure what to expect from this project. It's just beginning. Of course, it would be amazing if some of the artists participating could sell a painting or a drawing. It would be awesome if one of the artists got a gallery show out of this and had a career launched. It would be great if someone came on the tour who never knew much about art, then found themselves obsessed with contemporary art or at least finding that they have a better appreciation for art.

MICHAEL: Trust me.  That WILL happen.

KOTTIE: I would like to grow this project as big as I can while having as much fun as I can with it. There will be some times when I won't have the time or be in Berlin to host a tour, so I will be asking some of the other artists involved to host the tour. This will allow this to become more of a community. I guess one of the goals is community. The artists involved are very diverse. We have German artists, Americans, Scottish, Greek, Japanese ... It's really an international scene. We have good mix of both female and male artists. The ages of the artists participating now range between 25 and 50 years old. It's a motley crew.

MICHAEL: Very cool.  Thanks for telling me about this Kottie and I’m happy to help you promote it.

Check out Kottie Paloma and his work at www.kottiepaloma.com and Studio Visit Berlin at http://studiovisitberlin.tumblr.com/