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Creating a place for the arts
August 16, 2012, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal correspondent

Catie Coyle Jazz musician Nick Carlozzi, of the Carlozzi Duo, entertains supporters at the Common Brights fundraiser July 29.

Catie Coyle Supporters admire artistic works donated to the Common Brights silent auction July 29.


Creating a communal place in San Mateo for the arts is a labor of love for three brothers whose lofty effort is just getting off the ground.

The first of several fundraisers took place last month, and another one is planned at the San Mateo Library today. The brothers envision a place downtown for artists and musicians and the community can gather for "meaningful cultural experiences.”

Artists and musicians Charles Seevers, 32, James Seevers, 29, and Ben Seevers, 26, have returned to their hometown with such a vision in the form of their nascent nonprofit "Common Brights.”

On Sunday, July 29, Common Brights held a fundraising event at San Mateo’s Beresford Recreation Center that included live music, art, a silent auction and samples of herbal teas. People from various cities attended and volunteered their time and art in support of the center.

This is only the beginning. Around $250,000 is needed to cover city permits and six months of operational costs, including the lease at a potential 8,000-square-foot space on Fourth Avenue, said James Seevers.

And support is growing even at this early stage.

San Mateo Deputy Mayor David Lim has taken an interest. Residents have approached Lim expressing an interest in, "different types of cultural experiences to enhance our downtown,” Lim said.

With well-established restaurants and retail, Lim said residents would like a place to view art and music in their evenings out. Lim plans on attending the upcoming fundraiser in support of the nonprofit and encourages others to attend.

Jessica Evans, executive director of the Downtown San Mateo Business Association, is also on board.

"It would be wonderful to have a center to support the arts in the downtown area,” said Evans.

Pragmatically, the center could be a financial benefit to San Mateo. Those looking for a night out could stay locally and support their community instead of traveling to a larger city such as San Francisco, said James Seevers.

However, Common Brights is not a commercial venture, its goal is to "provide a safe, respectful space for anyone that walks in the door,” said James Seevers. With no interest in serving alcohol, every show, event and workshop will be open to all ages. The funds raised during events will go directly toward sustaining the center.

Common Brights will be accessible throughout the week with designated gallery space for artists of all ages to exhibit their work, a tea bar and a small library of various books, said James Seevers. Weekends will house theater and dance performances, music shows and gallery openings. Onsite and outreach workshops will offer unique classes unavailable at alternate institutions, said James Seevers.

Local artists and musicians are on board. The Carlozzi Duo, a jazz band comprised of Nick Carlozzi, 23, and his father performed at the recent fundraiser. A longtime friend of the Seevers family, Carlozzi is "thrilled by the idea of having a place where music and art will be supported in a safe and welcoming environment.” Painter Tod Lanem, 29, thinks the center would be great for any city.

"James and his brothers are perfect to run something like that,” Lanem said.

The Seevers’ lives have revolved around music and the arts. Charles Seevers studied photography, silkscreen, collage and woodworking, and plays the bass guitar. James Seevers plays the guitar, keyboard and composes classical music. Ben Seevers sings and plays the keyboard. James and Ben Seevers received bachelor’s degrees of fine art from the California College of the Arts in Oakland where they refined their painting and drawing skills alongside curating art and music shows, said James Seevers.

The Seevers brothers, having worked at their father’s general contracting business, gained management and accounting experience. In fact, the name Common Brights comes from a reference to a nail used in carpentry, said Ben Seevers. But in spring 2007, due to the decline in the housing market, James and Charles Seevers were cut from the payroll to sustain their family business, said James Seevers.

The brothers decided they were "stronger together than [they] are apart,” said James Seevers.

The Common Brights center hopes to inspire people to make their own art by gathering around meaningful cultural experiences, said Ben Seevers. It’s about bringing "different people together of all ages, who have varying interests that would not ordinarily cross paths,” said Charles Seevers, "[who] would hopefully recognize that we’re all part of the same community.”


Common Brights encourages the public to join them at their upcoming fundraisers. The Summer Art Show Closing Reception is today at the San Mateo Main Library, Laurel Room, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be a silent auction and an exhibition of two-dimensional works. The Classical Benefit Fundraiser is Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Beresford Recreation Center from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Local classical musicians will perform alongside an exhibition of new works from artists out of San Francisco, Oakland and San Mateo.

To find out more about Common Brights or to contact the Seevers visit commonbrights.org.


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