Guide map held in my hand is not really necessary. Just wandering to wherever my foot-steps take me, to places where people gather. Within a short walk, one can find another artists’ studio.

After two months in Paris I finally started to notice: mysterious doors to apartment units squeezed between shops on narrow alleyways. Strangers like me could easily miss them, these doors leading to a Parisian’s life. Even though the streets are filled with apartments like these, it is hard to imagine the life hidden behind the doors.

Most visitors hardly have an opportunity to take a look at how these average Parisians live in their own space. However, they open their doors to the public just a few days a year, when I – along with the other outsiders – have the opportunity to enter into these spaces and see their lives.

On these special days, white flags of Ateliers d’Artists de Belleville – the organization of artists living in Belleville – are fluttering on the alleys. These are the signs that welcome anyone with wondering eyes into their studios.

After walking into the door and passing the shad¬ed corridor, I come upon a surprise: a sun-drenched courtyard. I cannot help but pause for a moment there and enjoy this chance to appreciate the tranquility of the small courtyard that one could not expect from the outside. I follow the arrows toward an artist’s studio, skip the elevator; head for the stairs. Second floor, third floor, fourth floor. . .

Belleville, where this event is held, is the area that lies in the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissement of Paris, and over time it has become the home to many immigrant families. Likewise, artists have moved here from all over France and the world to form an artistic community. And once a year, for a few days, they open their studios to the public, hosting the untold number in their homes. Such highly personal spaces – what an opportunity to be invited inside! While the art is often interesting, the chance to peep into the private residences and studios of the artists is what makes this journey through Belleville irresistible.

The excitement of this event is the transformation of the highly personal work space into a public festival place. Like a giant open art museum, the entire city is invited to freely explore the intimate spaces of Belleville. And when you encounter work that captures your interest, you can chat one-on-one with the artist. The free spirit of Belleville, that allows for many private residential/work spaces to be assembled into a single giant art festival, is what makes this one of the most dynamic neighborhoods of Paris

– Jeeeun Ham