Art Live: Open studio tour

Eleven years ago, two artists opened their Chester County studio doors to the public. They both invited five other artists to share their spaces thereby increasing the likelihood of people popping in to take a look. The idea was to create a unique experience to connect artists with their community. It worked. People stopped in, they made new connections with friends and sometimes were surprised to learn what was going on inside a neighbor’s home. It not only encouraged folks to develop new relationships, but it also opened up a whole new way to peruse and purchase art. Suddenly a collector could observe a new work being created before their eyes and buy a piece, direct from the artist, hot off the press or before the paint was dry!

Alecia Miller in her Studio

The artists, Jeff Schaller and David Oleski, would send visitors to each other’s studio. Schaller said, “We had about 12 signs between us directing visitors to the two studios. Now there are over 700 signs going up for the weekend!” As time passed by, banners were created and they had enough artists to produce a catalogue to promote what is now a wildly popular two day event in this area.  Schaller shared more, “Over the past 11 years we have shown over 354 local artists, weathered the elements, pandemics, and furnished many homes with art, while inspiring new artists to join us. This year we can truly celebrate more than a decade of bringing the arts to Chester County. Nothing is better for those who love great art and collect great art, than these two days in May.” 

Crystal Art Demo at Stephen Smith Studio

The tour encompasses studios from the north in Spring City all the way down to West Grove in the south. Given that, the catalogue is a handy way to plan your itinerary. It can be picked up locally at Otto's Mini & BMW (Exton), Visual Expansion Gallery (West Chester), The Merchant of Menace (West Chester), Ivystone Gallery (Downingtown), Spring City Mill Studios (Spring City), Studio 3 (Downingtown), The Wright Agency (Downingtown) and other locations which are listed on the website. You can view and download the catalogue here. And, design your own self-guided tour by clicking the “Add to Itinerary” button of “must see” artists on the website here. Google Maps will plot the most efficient route. Schaller added, “This year I’m also excited to share ‘Find 5’. If you don’t have time to make a weekend out of it, visit our website and click here to ‘find 5’! We’ll find the five closest studios to you, so you can get your creativity on nearby.”

Jeff Schaller's Pink Cow Studio

This year brings 148 artists and 59 studios together. At some, visitors will have an opportunity to see artists demonstrate their techniques. On Saturday, Stephen Smith will share his crystal PhotoArt and alcohol ink painting techniques in Exton and Gillian Pokalo will demo screen printing techniques in Phoenixville from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. On Sunday, artist Alecia Miller will be demonstrating how to create depth in mixed media in Spring City Mill Studios from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. while artist Anna Boothe, a glass sculptor, will be sharing her tips on casting with lead crystal at Ivystone Studio in Downingtown, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. These and many more demonstrations, with days and times, are indicated in the catalogue.

Work by Gillian Pokalo

Schaller again, “After 11 years of organizing the Studio Tour, I am amazed at the talent that keeps popping up in Chester County! We have many new and outstanding artists joining us, along with our stable of artists who create something new every year for the tour. All of our artists will be safely exhibiting mediums such as painting, sculpture, jewelry, photography, clay, glass, paper and fiber. Many studios have large properties allowing artists and collectors to social distance. All the artists will be wearing masks while on hand to share their studios, discuss their work, and meet buyers and browsers alike.”

The Tour, sponsored by Citadel Federal Credit Union, is free and open to the public on Saturday, May 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visit here, Email info@countystudiotour.com or call 610.942.9629 for more information. More highlights of artists on the tour will be covered next week.

Other events worth checking out: In Philadelphia, PAFA ‘s free “Art at Noon” virtual lecture tomorrow, April 28th, is titled “Women Picturing Women”. Vassar curator Patricia Phagan shares insights into the exhibition, featuring works by Berthe Morisot, Hilda Belcher, Alice Neel, Sylvia Sleigh, and many others. 

Whatever you do this week, support the arts!!

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About Constance McBride

A native of Philadelphia, Constance McBride lived in Arizona for 16 years, where desert observations made a transformative impact on her work as a research based visual artist. Passionate about contemporary art, she was actively engaged in the local arts community. She served as a board member for several art organizations, managed an artist collective/gallery space, curated and juried several exhibitions and wrote for two arts publications in Phoenix. She taught ceramics at Shemer Art Center and Museum and exhibited her work both locally and nationally. McBride returned to Pennsylvania in 2018 and resides in Chester Springs with her husband and two dogs. In West Chester, she serves as a board member at The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank and teaches ceramics at Chester County Art Association. She also teaches at Clay on Main in Oley, PA. She is a member of American Craft Council, Philadelphia Sculptors, and Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia Chapter.

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