Celebrating 25 years: Open Studios 2020 offers virtual and in-person tours, reception

In celebration of 25 years, Open Studios will once again take place the 2nd and 3rd weekend in October in western Nevada County. While COVID-19 has made for some changes, many artists are opening their studios, moving outdoors, or creating virtual tours as a means of sharing their art with the public.

Presented by The Center For The Arts since 2012, Open Studios has been curated by local artists since the early 90s – most notably Tom Devine, Vi Woodbury and Wanda Avery who resurrected the dormant tour in 1995 with 25 juried artists focusing on fine art, painting, drawing and sculpting. Following the death of promotions person Carol Herschleb in 2012, The Center for the Arts took over the tour, under the leadership of Julie Baker, and with financial support from the Nevada County Arts Council.

This year there are 29 studios, some with multiple artists, with both live open studios and virtual tours. An artist reception will be held tonight, Oct. 8, in the Granucci Gallery at the Center for The Arts on East Main Street in Grass Valley. Social distancing guidelines will be in place.

Marketing Manager Melissa Clarke said it’s a fun and easy way to pick up a guide while getting an idea of what is being offered.

“It’s a good place for people to start their tour,” Clarke explained. “They can come to the Center, pick up a guide, see a sample of all of the artists and then they can make a decision of who they want to see and plot out their tour.” Noting some artists will only be open the first weekend, the guide offers more detail about who, what, where and when.

The free event is one of the goodwill programs the Center puts on each year, Clarke said, “This is for the benefit of the community but also for the benefit of local artists. There is an amazing art community here in Nevada County and we want to do everything we can to foster that.”

While exposing the public to the art is a primary focus, Clarke said the event is multi-faceted. “The primary goal for the artist is to sell art. The primary goal for The Center for The Arts is to generate awareness of art, generate support for the local artists, and to help them promote and market their art.”

Clarke added the Center has offered marketing workshops to the artists, as times have called for increased knowledge and skill. “It’s different now, then it was 25 years ago. (In a workshop held last year) people wanted more direction on making an iMovie. It’s not just about setting up shop and having people come, it takes a lot more online presence to engage folks now so they (artists) are also becoming amateur filmmakers in learning to market themselves online as well things like the open studio tours.”

The tight art community has helped some explore new media. One of the artists on the tour is Twin Star Gallery Owner Mindy Oberne who has lived in Nevada County for over 40 years. After retiring from her handbag business, she began honing a new skill at Artists Studio in the Foothills (ASIF) in clay.

“I started as a sewer; I had my own business wvmaking purses. A friend of mine dragged me into a class at ASIF studios and I started working with them and liked it so much I now have my own kiln, my own wheel and a slab roller.”

Oberne said she began hand-building but moved to the wheel over the course of a decade. “Clay is such an amazing medium because there is no limit to what you can do. When you are a painter you stretch your canvas and start painting, but when you are a ceramicist, you are making the whole canvas from scratch and there are so many variables in just the construction, let alone the finishing of the glazes and stuff. It’s just endless and that is what I love about it.”

Oberne’s enthusiasm for her craft is typical of many of those who open their studios to the public. While ASIF is offering a virtual tour this year, Oberne is set up to welcome people in to see her work up close and personal.

The accomplished potter now sells a variety of pieces, which are on display in her gallery, along with photographs, primarily taken during an excursion to Antarctica. She said she is taking steps to make certain guests are safe. “We are requiring masks and have some available if needed. We have sanitizer at the door, and we will only allow about four people at a time. We are very aware of Covid. We have self-quarantined. We always wear our masks.” Oberne added if you can’t make it during the tour, her gallery is always open.

“Christmas is coming up, instead of going to Amazon, come to Mindy.”

The artist reception at the Center kicks off the event. Clarke said last year the reception was held by lantern due to PSPS and this year there will be COVID-19 restrictions, but nothing is going to stop the tour. “We are very excited to open up for the reception. It won’t be the typical big hurrah, packed full of people, but we will have these receptions no matter what it takes – power, COVID – it’s all about bringing people together and really creating space for local artists and giving them a platform and helping more artists and people connect.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at [email protected]

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