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SLO County artists open their studios to the public

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Open Studio Art Tours are about connection—building a kinship between artists and the communities they live in—something that was missing last year, during the height of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

But your opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes is back this year, and you've got one weekend, Oct. 16 and 17, left to experience what SLO County Arts Council board member Katy McGrath calls a chance to see creation in progress.

"You get to see how the artists are inspired and what goes into it," McGrath said. "If you get to engage in a conversation, you just kind of see them come alive talking about their work."

Whether it's unglazed pottery, an unfinished painting, partially soldered jewelry, or half-built furniture pieces you want to know more about, the Arts Council's annual Open Studio Tours has one or more artists for you. But, most importantly, you can support your favorite artist by purchasing one of their finished pieces, which will be on display and available for sale.

Ultimately, the event gives artists a chance to show their work to the public in a more intimate setting than a gallery, by opening their homes and/or studios to the curious and the serious.

"It kind of creates that sense of community," McGrath said, adding that the artistic process becomes more tangible for everyone involved.

McGrath said that about 125 artists from San Miguel to Nipomo are participating this year, which is about 30 more artists than in years past.

"It could be that a lot of people kind of took up hobbies during the pandemic. ... It could just be that people had more time on their hands, so they actually created more things and actually had a stockpile of pieces ready to be sold," McGrath said. "You have to have at least 10 completed pieces ready to be sold, which may have been a barrier in the past."

Whatever the reason, the Arts Council is planning to figure it out via an artists forum and debrief after the event, she said, to discuss what worked, what didn't, and how to better leverage digital elements for the future.

Although the Arts Council normally produces a printed flyer for the event, this year, the council opted to stay digital. McGrath said it enabled the council to be a little more nimble with changes, updating the digital flyer on the fly to add artists or make other last-minute changes that the public needed to know about.

With region-specific interactive maps and downloadable PDFs of participating artists, the Arts Council's website, artsobispo.org/osat, is accessible on the go via a smartphone. And if you visit members.artsobispo.org, you can search participating artists by media type and location.

Studios will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 17, the second and final weekend of the Open Studio Arts Tours. Visit artsobispo.org for more information. Δ

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