From the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art to the abundance of open-daily galleries around town, it's not difficult to view great art in SLO. But how often do you get to see the process that brings those works to fruition?
The ARTS Obispo Open Studios Tour aims to provide just that: a chance for the public to engage with the local arts community from a different angle. For two weekends—Oct. 12 to 13, and Oct. 19 to 20—168 artists from across SLO County will open their studio doors to visitors. This year marks the 21st year for the annual event.
- Photos Courtesy Of Edel Mitchell
- FAMILIAR SIGHTS A gallerygoer observes a featured painting that captures San Luis Obispo's iconic mountains.
Ahead of the tour, ARTS Obispo creates a catalog for tourgoers to peruse as they make their studio rounds.
"People can go around and create their own little art tour throughout the county," Edel Mitchell, ARTS Obispo project coordinator, told New Times.
Free to the public, the paper catalogs can be picked up at all public libraries as well as many local galleries. An electronic version is available as well.
What makes this event different from just another day at the gallery, Mitchell said, is that most of the artists are opening up their homes.
"Basically what the public can do is go into that space and see the process of making the art," she said. "A lot of the time, artists will do a live demonstration of how it works and how everything comes together, the process of what they do. There are some galleries that are joining in, but I would say mostly it's personal studios."
For the participating artists, the tour presents a chance to get to know the community that they hope to sell their work to.
"A lot of artists do sell their work during the tour, but even more than that, it's making an impression with people," Mitchell said. "Artists can have little things for people to take away, and then if that person really liked their artwork they can come back when they're ready to buy a piece. ... They'll have this artist in the back of their mind, whether it's to buy a piece or to have an event with an artist. It really brings the community together with the artists."
Mitchell said that this year's featured artists are particularly varied, both in medium and in style.
"We've got abstract, representational, ... wood, glass, metal, ceramic. Really a little bit of everything," she said.
Tourgoers can also expect to find a wide range of studio spaces.
- Photos Courtesy Of Edel Mitchell
- OPENING NIGHT Along with coordinating the two weekends of the Open Studios Art Tour, ARTS Obispo opened a temporary gallery to highlights some of the tour's artists. Community members enjoy the Oct. 5 gallery opening night.
"It might be their garage, a spare room, or their backyard," ARTS Obispo President Peggy Sonoda told New Times. "Then there's people who have been at it a long time and are very financially successful at it, or people who have had other careers, and some who have really exquisite studios. It runs the full range."
For artists who don't have personal studios, the tour this year also includes some group spaces.
"This year we also added in collectives and galleries like The Bunker, because we wanted people who don't have full-on studios to be able to participate," Sonoda said about the warehouse-turned-art-collective located on Orcutt Road in SLO. "People tell us it's their one opportunity to sell a lot of work, so that's why we support it so much."
Sonoda said the two weekends of studio tours are intended to build a bridge between the SLO arts community and the folks who enjoy it.
"We hope that the viewers and visitors are inspired and get to know the stories behind the artists and the artwork, and also support them by purchasing art," she said. "We want our artists here to thrive."
For Mitchell, she hopes the event shows SLO residents a side of their community that they didn't know before.
"I would hope that tourgoers would walk away feeling like their community is a bit more artistic, that they feel a little bit more connected to that artist community," she said. "Whether they want to participate in it as well, or whether they just want to experience more art events like that: just to bring more art and culture into our county." Δ
Arts Writer Malea Martin is planning an art tour. Send arts story tips to email@example.com.