Art Watch: The most important art weekend of the year

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The Chester County Studio Tour is this weekend

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

The hugely anticipated art event of the year is here, The Chester County Studio Tour, is this weekend Saturday and Sunday. This year an astonishing 179 artists are showing and selling their artwork in 72 art studio locations throughout Chester County Saturday May 20th 10am-6pm, and finishing up the next day Sunday May 21st 11am -5pm.

This open studio tour invites the public into local art studios for an extraordinary inside look into an artist’s creative space. The Studio Tour and sale has grown by leaps and bounds every year, with tens of thousands of visitors travelling all through Chester County in search of art over this one special weekend. Get ready to explore Chester County’s flourishing art scene – grab a studio tour map, pile your friends and family into the car, and be prepared for a fabulous Chester County art adventure!

The Studio Tour is the brainchild of encaustic artist Jeff Schaller, who began the tour showing at his studio location in Downingtown with fellow artists. The first Chester County Studio tour was in 2010, 7 years ago, and there were 12 studios showing 25 artists, and the tour has been growing 25% every year. “I am always amazed at how much talent is out there!”tells Jeff Schaller. Most studios have several artists showing at each space, and offer food, refreshments and sometimes even music and wine. It truly is a celebration of the arts May 20-21!

To get a sneak peak at 80 of the artists who are participating in the tour, stop be “View”, an art exhibition by The Art Trust at the Meridian Bank in downtown West Chester. 80 artists are showing their work, which includes paintings, steel metal sculpture, ceramic work, stained glass, encaustic painting, bookmaking and more.

The Art Trust show will continue through May 26. Another great way to check out which artists are showing on the tour is to go to the Chester County Studio tour website, www.countystudiotour.com, and scan through the thumbnail images of each of the artists, which also link to their websites. Many of the “host studios” have several artists also showing at their location, so when you are determining your travel through Chester County, make sure to note the host studios as your destination points.

How to do the tour: With so many studios and artists to see May 20-21, it is tough to decide which places to visit during The Chester County Studio Tour. The best thing is to look at the artists’ work in advance so that you can plan your trip accordingly. Once you have picked some artists, get hold of a Studio Tour map and start to plan your route. Download the studio tour map at http://www.countystudiotour.com/map as a pdf, or sync the map with google maps, or keep your catalogue handy and make your own art adventure itinerary.

This year, the Studio Tour also offers map routes designed for visitors looking for specific types of art. These mapped destination routes are also available online, and offer whimsical destination adventures, like “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for a map guide of sculptural works, or “Different Strokes for Different Folks” which guides you to all the abstract artist studios. A great new idea!  If with map in hand, and iphone google maps telling you where to go, and you still get turned around, there are plentiful “Chester County Studio Tour” road signs on all the roadways to help you get your bearings. Having said that, it is impossible to do it all in two days!

“Besides great art, what do the Louvre and the County Studio Tour have in common? Neither can be totally experienced in only a two day event! But the County Studio Tour can start you on an art trek that will make you want to visit again and again” explains artist and Studio Tour founder, Jeff Schaller.

Jeff suggests breaking up the tour into parts of the county, Northern Chester County one day, and Southern Chester County the next. There is a map available for both areas. Northern Chester County has 29 studio locations and Southern Chester County has 40 artist studio locations and 9 gallery sites. If there are artists that you would love to visit, but you couldn’t get to their studio, then call or email them and set up a personal visit for another day this Summer.

Where do you get a County Studio Tour Catalogue? Various public locations throughout Chester County, including local galleries and show sponsors, will have a collection of catalogues available free to the public. The beautiful catalogues are a wonderful keepsake as well as a guide to artists and galleries throughout the year. Each of the studios on the tour has a big stack of these beautiful catalogues, so make sure to pick one up along your art trip.

“County Collectors” is an exciting tradition of the studio tour. Every participating artist does an artwork on a framed 6 x 6inch panel, and prices it at $75. There is only one of these County Collectors available for each artist at that price. The County Collector is a great way to start a collection of local art at a modest price, and great fun to add to your collection every year with a mosaic of collected works on a wall in your home. The entire set of County Collectors is on the website for the tour, and pictured in this year’s catalogue. If you want a specific piece, you should get to that studio first thing when they open at 10am. I have seen visitors zoom in on a mad dash to buy a County Collector piece, and zoom out again to get one at the next studio. One studio had buyers lined up for hours! Remember though, you cannot pre-buy the piece before 10am!

A neat example of one artist’s interpretation of the County Collector is by steel sculptor Rob Sigafoos, who is showing at sculptor Lisa Fedon’s studio location this year. He is known for very large, steel sculptures, and for this 6 inch piece he welded on a beautiful forged steel trumpet flower atop the 6 inch base. By the way, talking with Rob about the extraordinary amount of time and planning that goes into creating his forged metal works is a mind-opening experience. Once his Trumpet Flower Collector’s piece sells, Rob will have four other similarly sized flower pieces available at his usual price, $200-$250 each.

There are two ways to be interactive about your Chester County Studio Tour visit this year. While you are out and about, you can post your comments and images onto the County Studio Tour facebook page, and you can also vote for your favorite artist on the tour. Vote on the website no later than Sunday May 22. Jeff Schaller explains the “County Cash” very succinctly, “Vote to give an artist $500– just go online and vote for your favorite artist from the tour, and when you sign up to vote your name goes into a raffle to earn some tour cash. Get paid to vote! Go around and visit the artists, vote and then get cash for later art shopping.”

Once The Chester County Studio Tour is finished, you can start planning for the neighboring county tours that are set for this year. The Montgomery County Tour is June 10-11, Cecil County Tour is September 10-11, and the Delaware County Tour is October 21-22.

While you are venturing around Chester County, make sure to stop in now or later into the many art galleries in our area. Art galleries support the arts and local artists every day and are the mainstay to any art community. Each of our galleries has interesting new art shows for the month of May, and you should definitely check them out!

This month’s Art Watch Radio Wednesday June 7th from 1-1:30 on WCHE AM 1580 I will be chatting with Tom Padon, Director of The Brandywine River Museum of Art , and Vicki Manning, owner of Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville Delaware. We will be discussing the centennial celebration of the work of Andrew Wyeth, which will have a blockbuster show at The Brandywine River Museum or Art as well an opportunity to see and buy his work at The Somerville Manning Gallery.

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