Explore Through Art: The Chester County Studio Tour

There is no better excuse to get out and explore the beauty of the Brandywine Valley than the Chester County Studio Tour. This weekend, Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, May 15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the tour puts local artists in the spotlight on their own turf. With 68 studios and 165 artists participating, it is the perfect opportunity to explore the vibrant art scene, find the perfect piece to add to your collection, and see what might be hiding in your own neighborhood.

New to the studio tour? You aren’t alone. Every year, new artists and patrons find out about this local event through social media, advertising, those fabulous guidebooks at local businesses, word of mouth, and yard signs. Jeff Schaller, founder and coordinator of the Chester County Studio Tour, noted how exciting it is to see the signs pointing to the spots on the Tour as you drive around the county in the days leading up to the event, when “everywhere I turned there was a studio tour sign. I had to pinch myself.” It has come a long way from 15 years ago when Schaller opened his own studio to the public for a weekend, then invited another to join, then twelve, and now 68.

by Maryanne Buschini,

As Maryanne Buschini, who is showing at Studio 11 in Malvern (all artists are referenced by their stop on the Studio Tour), notes that the best way to get started is to “Look through the catalog and see what art speaks to you—that way you can determine which studios to visit.”

Strategies for the most effective tour vary. “Start with a few of the studios closest to your home,” said Judy DeSimone, Studio 53. “It’s fun to realize what talent may be hidden in your neighborhood.”

This year, the tour introduced a tool to help people find studios close to their current location, whether you are starting from home or already out and about.

“Another, more relaxing way, is to just look for the road signs and banners this weekend, or use the handy Find 5 online tool to identify the closest studios to your location,” said Susan O’Hanlon, Studio 27.

If you are looking to explore farther away, “Maybe pick your top studios in northern Chester County for one of the days and your top picks for southern Chester County the other day,” suggested Monique Sarkessian, Studio 8. “For studios that are host studios, if you aren't able to get there during the tour weekend, you may be able to make an appointment another day so save your guidebooks after the tour, they are golden!” Or “travel to the farthest studio and make your way back home,” as Schaller recommended.

by Judy Lupas

Plan to get started early if you are looking for specific pieces, especially the County Collector items. Each artist creates one piece that is priced at $75, especially for the tour, and these prized collector pieces go fast. You can get a sneak preview of these pieces in the guidebook or online. Mollie Allen, Studio 40, notes that this year has an exciting vibe. “What excites me about the current art scene in the Chester County/Brandywine Valley is the upbeat and positive energy I feel throughout this community of friendly, kind, helpful, and encouraging artists, mentors, and teachers.”

All styles of art will be on display on this year’s tour, from classic plein air and Brandywine tradition pieces to ceramics to mixed media to modern pieces. Theresa Groff (TAO), Studio 35, notes that “the current art scene is encouraging Chester County artists to push their creativity and expression.”

The tour gives visitors a chance to see that creativity in a person. “Art is on the rise and if you look at the quality of the work you will be astounded,” Sarkessian said. “I guarantee that those visiting the studios this year will feel very uplifted that they seem to be surrounded by great artists.”

Participating in the tour is invaluable to artists, as Judy Lupas, Studio 1, points out. “A wonderful aspect of being involved in CCST is the visibility it affords you as an artist who spends most of the time creating and not taking enough time to market.” It allows artists to connect directly with their fans and followers.

“The entire weekend is about sharing something I am passionate about with people who love art and pottery,” O’Hanlon said. “What's not to love?”

by Jeff Schaller

Nilanjan Bhowmik, Studio 14, noted that artists make connections through the show, too. “The art scene here has always been vibrant with amazing artists, and it is getting stronger by the day,” he said. “I have come to know so many talented artists over the last few years either by being part of a show as an artist or by visiting one and am excited to be a part of this thriving creative community.” After visiting the tour for the past few years, this year they decided to participate from their own studio with three other artists.

The tour is also a rare opportunity to peek at not only the art on display but the vibrant artist studios. As Buschini notes, for her first time participating she had set up a tent outside to display her art. “I was happily surprised that many visitors asked to go in and see my studio, which was, as usual, a big working mess,” she says, but “They were excited to see where the artists work—and I love that.”

And many studios have other perks as well, such as a chance to explore hidden gems. DeSimone’s home is a popular spot for gardening enthusiasts: “My landscape architect husband has turned our yard into a garden magazine.” Sometimes, people come just for the garden, especially those who drive by and “had always wanted to look at the different plants.” They look at the art, but then ask, “Since they were here now, could they walk around and look at the gardens?”

“As an artist, it’s exciting to see more people putting this event on their calendar and viewing the art,” Schaller said. “Art can be very intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.” What better way to dive in than when the Studios are inviting you in just down the road? “Oh, and have a designated driver,” Groff added. Many spots on the tour offer treats and beverages to guests.

There are 68 studios on the Tour, spread throughout Chester County. Guidebooks are available at participating Studios and businesses throughout the area. Plan your trip and find out more at CountyStudioTour.com.

About Victoria Flickinger

Victoria (she/her) is an editor, writer, avid reader, self-described geek, and fan of all things creative. Her passion for words has led to her current career as a freelance editor, and she is the owner of Flickering Words, an editing service. When not wielding a red pen (or cursor), she loves reading books of all genres, playing video, board, and word games, baking ridiculous creations to show off on the internet, or enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. She is a board member of the West Chester Film Festival and part of the Thirsty Monsters, a team of streamers from around the world who fundraise for various charities supporting LGBTQIA+ and accessibility rights. She can be found online @WordsFlickering or the Brandywine Art Guide @BrandywineArtGuide.

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