SoiferWhen we look at a piece of art, we wonder about the artist, how the piece came about, and what was the inspiration behind it. Sometimes we meet the artist and ask our questions, but rarely get a chance to see where the artist works. Now, after a two-year break, the Willamette Valley Open Studio Tour is returning. Sponsored by Artists in Action, 16 Marion and Polk County artists will open their studios to the public for a self-guided driving tour. Media include a wide variety of painting styles, drawing, photography, digital painting, metal, mixed media, and fiber. Items will also be offered for sale.

The Salem area studio tour (encompassing Keizer, Silverton, Stayton, Monmouth, Independence, Rickreall and Dallas areas) has been in existence since in one form or another since 1996. It has gone through several changes over the years, and is now set up as a semi annual event titled the Willamette Valley Open Studios (WVOS) and is facilitated by Artists in Action.  It is a volunteer run event, and this year’s committee includes AiA President Becki Hesedahl, Diane Trevett, and Jacqui Jenkins. Sponsors include Fox Blue Printing and Graphics and Salem Weekly. Tour fees benefit Artists in Action, a local non-profit artists group that provides learning and other event opportunities for local artists.

Engagement of artists and the community is one of AiA’s major focus areas, and Hesedahl points out that the Studio Tour is a great way to accomplish this.  Open studios give visitors a chance to talk with  artists about their  materials, processes, and what inspires them.  Emerging or established artists make new connections, get  information and inspiration, and a look at different techniques. Hesedahl believes that most artists  love sharing their work and processes, but it can also be kind of scary.  “Putting your art out there is like putting your naked heart  there for the world to see and judge.”   

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Hesedahl is enthusiastic about the local art community. She says “Salem artists are often a well-kept secret and they have a lot to share with the community.  We have 16 artists this year working in several mediums – from oil, acrylic and watercolor painting, pastels, fiber art, metal sculpture, photography, drawing and more. Some are experienced with the tour but most are new and have exciting and different processes and artwork to share with the public.”  This year several  artists will be sharing a studio space, and one artist without a current studio will be hosted by the Elsinore Framing and Fine Art Gallery.

The  tour includes a  wristband allowing entrance to  the studios on both days and  brochures featuring each artist’s information, example artwork, maps and driving directions.  Wristbands may be purchased in advance at the Art Department, Elsinore Framing & Fine Art Gallery or Bush Barn Art Center, and will also be available at each studio. While driving, locations are marked with white signs with purple lettering and purple balloons.