Tucson Open Studio Tour

November 6, 2012 |

Beata Wehr Studio

Artists all over Tucson will open their studios on Saturday and Sunday, November 10-11 from 11am to 5pm for the fall Open Studio Tour (OST) event organized by Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC).

This year more than 200 artists have signed up for Open Studios. A Preview Exhibition by participating artists is up now at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road. The exhibit closes following a reception from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on November 8.

Zócalo thought it might be fun to hear from the artists themselves about what OST means to them.  So I contacted several of the participating artists and asked for feedback. Disclosure: I’m one of the OST artists so you’ll be hearing from me, too.

The most frequent response was one of gratitude to the good folks at Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) who make it all happen. Organizing anything involving left-brain creative types is a lot like herding cats so we are grateful for TPAC’s patience and efficiency.  Or as participating painter Tom Bergin says, “I think the folks who put this together do a wonderful job.”

Many of us artists believe that Tucson is on its way to becoming a great arts destination town like Scottsdale or Santa Fe.  I have sold paintings several times to visitors who wanted to take home original Tucson art as a remembrance of the Old Pueblo. We have a supportive, arts-loving community here year round as well. Open Studios Tour is an integral part of making Tucson an arts destination.

There’s an economic component, too. According to Emily Duwel, TPAC’s Communications Manager, the non-profit arts sector alone in Tucson brings in $87.7 million each year. “There’s a lot of vitality in our arts sector. We have a high per capita number of artists here. Tucson is a highly creative space with a tremendous base of talent.”

What is the value of OST to local artists? Acrylic painter Bonnie Behan in her second year with OST says the studio event is “a great opportunity for artists, especially the ones like me who don’t exactly relish the marketing aspect. TPAC does a fantastic job with that.”  For Mary Theresa Dietz, “It is a good way to connect with my public, make some money, and acquire some students.”

However, Open Studios is more than show and sell. It’s a real social and community event.  Mixed-media textile artist Mary Vaneecke, now in her fourth year with OST, says, “The Open Studio Tour is a great way to connect with the community. Making art can be a solitary pursuit, and by taking part in the OST, I get to work with other artists, the folks from the Tucson Pima Arts Council, and talk to collectors from all over Tucson.”

Laurel Hansen participates “to have the Tucson community aware of my work.” However the best part of OST for her is, “to connect with other artists and make the public aware of all the various kinds of art in the Tucson community.”

Oil painter Melinda Esparza, a four-year OST veteran, values the experience of “greeting visitors from Tucson, especially so many repeat visitors, and art tourists from all over the country. We have a two-day party and it’s a great source of inspiration for me.”

“Talking to folks about art is a major high for me, given that I spend so many hours every day alone in my studio,” says acrylic painter Sheryl Holland.” It’s always energizing and affirming that so many people appreciate art in this community.”  K. Loren Dawn believes OST is a “good way to introduce my artwork in a more casual setting, and also get some interesting feedback with conversations.”

There are some growing pains as Tucson develops as an art destination. In the past, much of the attention was focused on downtown studios and the arts district. Now artists all over the metro Tucson area participate in Open Studios. Being noticed and visited is an issue for artists the farther they are from central Tucson.

Painter Pat Napombejra decided to join in for the first time this year. He says, “I live on the far east side of Tucson and in the past I thought that I am too far and isolated from a function such as the open studio tour which seemed mostly near downtown Tucson. Last year, I noticed there were more neighboring studios taking part in the OST, so I thought this year I’ll be part of the show.”

TPAC’s Duwel says that including artists from the entire metro region helps all artists. She says visitors who currently might not be willing to drive downtown are willing to visit artists in their own neighborhood.  In following years, they are more likely to venture out to other parts of the city to visit more studios.

Artists, too, have come up with some solutions to help visitors. Mixed-media artist Barbara Brandel, a twenty-year OST veteran, says, “It helps when a group of artists show work together, making it easier for people to get around to see more work at one stop. It also makes it enjoyable for the artists to be together.”

Having a good map is absolutely essential for art lovers to find the open studios.  TPAC provides really excellent maps on-line under “Browse by Location” on the Open Studios page of the TPAC website. Unfortunately not everyone looks at the on-line maps.

Emily Duwel says that this year TPAC is providing each artist with copies of a high quality guide to Open Studios which includes a map and listing of all artists’ studios. The guide will also be distributed in key places around Tucson including Bookman’s and Tucson’s public libraries.

Some of the artists have made some intriguing suggestions. I like the idea of encaustic artist Diane Kleiss who thinks it time to hold Open Studios on two consecutive weekends. She says OST “needs to be more than one weekend. Divide it up by north/south or east/west.” She also suggested that it may be time for a shuttle to outlying studios.

One of the biggest problems for participating artists is not being able to visit other artists’ studios.  I have to agree with Mary Vaneecke who says, “I just wish there was a way for me to visit other artists’ studios!“ For detailed information on the Open Studio Tour, please visit  TucsonPimaArtsCouncil.org

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Category: Arts