Photos: Tavern Road Debuts Studio Sundays
When the DiBiccari brothers opened their restaurant Tavern Road in Fort Point last year, they were very aware of the neighborhood’s rich history as an artistic community, dating back to before rising rents drove many artists out of the area now known as the Innovation District. Naturally, the primary concerns of new restaurant owners are food and service, but now that the brothers—chef Louis and general manager Michael—feel that they’ve “found [their] feet a little bit,” they’ve decided to focus on opening the venue up to its neighborhood’s artistic roots. So over the weekend, about a month shy of the restaurant’s one-year anniversary, the DiBiccaris launched Studio Sundays, an art-meets-food series set to take place every month.
“For the better half of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and into the ’90s, the integrity and the DNA of this neighborhood was built by artists,” says Louis DiBiccari. “We had a very strong understanding of that and it was very important for us to maintain the identity of Fort Point when we first opened here. I think it was a responsibility we were excited for.”
Studio Sundays transform Tavern Road’s adjacent TR Street Food Space—which serves as a “food truck without wheels” during the day—into a pop-up art gallery where patrons can enjoy a friendly chat with the chosen artist for the night, view and purchase art on display, and precede or follow with food and drinks from the restaurant. Louis DiBiccari sees it as the sister of CREATE, another series he started two years ago that tasks six chefs to come up with dishes based on the subject matter of the six artists they’ve been paired up with. But unlike CREATE, which takes place at various venues around the city, Studio Sundays has a permanent home. And while visitors are strongly encouraged to enjoy art and food, there’s no correlation between the artwork on display and the menu at the restaurant.
“It’s a little bit of a pop-up art studio in a restaurant, which is something that I’ve been trying to find someone else doing, and I can’t find anyone else doing,” says DiBiccari. “There’s a lot of open studios in Fort Point—it’s the father of open studios—so it seemed natural to do an open studio in a space here.”
The inaugural Studio Sunday featured works by Patt Kelley, an illustrator and comic artist who graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and lives in Dorchester. Works on display included his weekly contributions to the Dig‘s “What’s for Breakfast?” comic strip, a piece featured in the 2010 exhibit “Circus Day in America” at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and other illustrations done over the years.
“It’s so awesome,” says Kelley of his involvement with Studio Sundays. “I think chefs and artists are a bit alike, so it’s a good marriage. It’s a great idea, and I haven’t heard of many other places that do it. There are food places you can go to and hang your art, but nothing like this—this is like an open studio. I don’t have a studio, so getting out to a place where I can have an open studio is excellent.”
With Modest Mouse blasting in the background and aromas drifting in from the nearby kitchen and main dining room, Kelley greeted visitors throughout the night, striking up conversations with friends, strangers, and fellow artists about his work.
“We’re really encouraging people to come in and grab a glass of wine or a beer or a cocktail, and then come in here and talk to the artist and support and buy some art, and then grab dinner—make it a night out,” says DiBiccari. “It’s kind of like SOWA. I love SOWA Sundays, and I wanted to have that feeling of cruising around and seeing what the artists are doing. I know that Sunday nights between 4 and 7 are family time, so maybe this conflicts with that a little bit, but why not bring your family down? Show your kids that there’s some really cool local art going on in Boston and then have some dinner?”
For the DiBiccari brothers, supporting the arts isn’t just an obligation they feel because of the neighborhood their restaurant is located in—it’s ingrained into their family history. Tavern Road takes its name from a street by the Museum of Fine Arts, where famed sculptors (and Louis and Michael’s uncles) Adio DiBiccari and Arcangelo Cascieri—who created the “Industry,” “Religion,” and “Learning” monuments at the Parkman Plaza on the Boston Common—owned a studio.
“They passed away, but it’s always been a massive source of pride in our family to document, talk about, and show off what our uncles did,” says DiBiccari.
Over at the bar, sitting nearby the huge mural dedicated to the sculptors that adorns the dining room, Louis and Michael’s mother, Georgann DiBiccari, beamed with pride.
“It’s too bad that they’re not here to have seen all of this, but it’s such an amazing tribute to them,” she says. “My side of the family is more about food—my mother was in the Globe years ago for a lot of her recipes—and my husband’s side of the family is all about art. This is a great idea that brings artists and food together.”
Check out highlights from the inaugural Tavern Road Studio Sunday:
Local illustrator and comic book artist Patt Kelley was the first artist featured in Tavern Road’s Studio Sunday series.
“Please Just Hold Me,” by Patt Kelley.
Every week, Kelley contributes a comic strip to DigBoston’s “What’s for Breakfast?” series. Several of them were featured in his Studio Sunday installation.
Tavern Road owners and brothers, Louis (left) and Michael (right) DiBiccari, with artist Patt Kelley (center).
Louis and Michael DiBiccari with their mother, Georgann.
Georgann DiBiccari brought friends to Tavern Road to celebrate her sons’ inaugural Studio Sunday event.
Olivia and Paul Dooley, friends of Kelley’s, came out to support the artist and purchase a few pieces.
Those who purchased artwork were able to take the pieces, secured with masking tape, right off the wall, which permanently shows graffiti by artists from Project Super Friends, who also painted the mural in the main dining room.
Studio Sundays take place the fourth Sunday of every month at Tavern Road, 343 Congress St., Boston, tavernroad.com. The February 23 event will feature photographer Natasha Moustache and the March 23rd event will feature Bill Phaneuf, who specializes in custom rustic wood furniture from aged and vintage materials.