The big news in June is North Coast Open Studios, two consecutive weekends when artists throughout the county open their studios and homes, giving you a chance to see much more of an artist's work than you'd see in any gallery show.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for people to meet their favorite artists and discover new artists," said Libby Maynard, executive director of Ink People Center for the Arts, a sponsor of this event. "I find it exhilarating to connect with ‘the beast in its own habitat,' and it's pleasantly informal as compared to an art opening."
Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5 and 11-12, mark the 13th year for Open Studios and the 4th year for Taffy Stockton as its coordinator.
To get started you will need a guide. The printed version of the NCOS 2011 Guide can be found on newsstands, at the offices of the Journal and Ink People, and at many of the stores in Old Town and Arcata that show artists during Arts Alive! and Arts! Arcata. The print guide, with its up-to-date addresses, phone numbers, maps and web listings is definitely a keeper.
A little bit of planning goes a long way to enjoying Open Studios. Check the guide for a list of over 90 venues, with photo examples and great pics of artists at work. In addition, Dave Thewlis created an ideal website at www.northcoastopenstudios.com. I highly recommend using the site with its many links and organizing tools.
Since some artists only do one weekend, carefully check the guide or website to be certain which days of which weekends each has scheduled. And don't be intimidated by the few studios that are listed "by appointment only." Call them; they just need a little more flexibility in scheduling. Hours for all four days are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can carpool with friends, save gas and enjoy good company between stops.
Obviously the biggest attraction of Open Studios is the chance to meet the artists you admire. Some approach the tour by theme, such as landscape paintings, sculpture, or ceramics (the website can help with this). Some go to studios in their immediate area such as Trinidad, Fieldbrook and McKinleyville in the north, or Redway, Rio Dell and Fortuna in the south, or a little bit of both on different weekends. There are a few places showing groups of artists such as StewArt Studios in Arcata and C Street Studios, Origin Design Lab and Studio S in Eureka.
I've had some wonderful experiences on NCOS tours. At Joan Gold's studio, with its bounty of joyous color-field paintings in every price range, I feel like I'm there for a custom ‘fitting.' At Natalie Craig's opening in Arcata, I was delighted to find that a drawing I had much admired years before was still for sale, and made it mine. It's always a pleasure to visit that talented couple, John King and Regina Case, who graciously open their entire house and garden, a trove of gems, serene painting and boisterous sculptures. A special shout-out to two prolific painters in the Redway area, Judy Evenson and Alicia Tredway: Here's hoping you and all the other artists do well financially and make many new friends.
Artist Julia Bednar, on the board of Redwood Art Association and this year's steering committee of NCOS, has participated since the first year. She sums up the experience: "When people see work hanging in a gallery or a shop for sale, they see only the finished product. But getting to visit an artist's work space and see the process one goes through to create a finished work of art is a learning experience that gives greater understanding of the value of an art piece.
"For me personally, it's an opportunity to share my paintings, both finished and in progress, to explain what I paint and why, and to answer questions. I love that friends, neighbors and fellow artists drop in during the weekend. While sales are always nice, to me it's more important for visitors to experience what the creative part of an artist's life looks like. I believe anyone who goes on the Open Studios tour gains a greater appreciation of art and the artists who create it."
"And," she adds, "it gives me a good reason to de-clutter my studio before visitors arrive. Without that incentive, I might put off those mundane chores indefinitely!"
Help artists like Julia Bednar de-clutter! Do your part and acquire a soulful treasure or two, on your NCOS 2011 safari.